Based on the move by the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff to investigation how over N4 trillion was lost by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) between 2006 and 2016, Ripples Nigeria dug deeper to unearth why and how it reached the decision.
Findings revealed that the decision to probe the government agency headed by a retired Army Colonel, Hameed Ali, was reached based on a petition sent to the legislators by a private firm.
It was gathered that the Senate investigation was instigated by a petition from a private firm, Motor Vehicle Network International (MVNI) to the Committee, which sparked off series of inquiries on the Customs and Excise activities.
The motor firm is said to be demanding a N5 billion compensation for Customs’ adaption of its software on the Vehicle Registration System, it used for inspection and billing of imported vehicles in Nigeria, without expressed permission from the company.
Mr. Muhammed Kabir, the Managing Director/CEO, MVNI Group, had in the petition to the upper legislative chamber alleged that the software was first submitted to the management of NCS and the Federal Ministry of Finance in 2005/2006 and re-submitted on September 2, 2015, but nothing was heard of it.
Kabir said his company was surprised to see a doctored version of the said work in use by Customs after all efforts made to see the agency buy the proxy from his company failed.
This marks another bone of contention between the upper chamber and the Ali-led customs which started when the agency introduced a new policy into the country, to start collecting duties from the owners of old vehicles on Nigerian roads.
The Senate had summoned Ali to appear before it in plenary, demanding that he must appear in the uniform of the NCS, wish he has so far refused to do.
Chairman of the committee, Hope Uzodinma, on Sunday, said a preliminary investigation revealed that the alleged shortcomings on the part of Customs, resulting mainly from abuse and non-implementation of Form M (foreign exchange forms), strictly as required have given room for loss of revenue.
He added that other factors responsible for leakages were wrong classification of cargo under HS Code (Harmonised System Codes), non-screening of cargoes coming into Nigeria and lack of adequate Internet and Communications Technology (ICT infrastructure), among others.
Uzodinma said the committee is interested in digging into how the inability of the Technical Committee on the Implementation of Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme connived with yet-to-be identified persons and agencies to deprive Nigeria huge sums of revenue at the period.
But Customs spokesman, Joseph Attah, submitted that “Customs has nothing to hide. We are open to investigation.
“Most of our deals are automated. It will make investigation easier.
“We welcome any effort that is aimed at protecting the interest of Nigerians.”