Game of Wits

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Aremu
Aremu

Nigeria Customs Service officials at Tin Can Island Port beat smugglers at their own game by foiling their strategy to evade payment of appropriate customs duties

|  By Pita Ochai  |  Mar. 25, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

Nigerian Customs Service NCS  and smugglers love to play games to outwit each other. Recently, the NCS officials have discovered that smugglers have been padding containers with prohibited goods which cannot be easily discovered even by using scanning machines. Most of the importers involved in this dubious act are those who import assorted items otherwise known as “heterogeneous” importers.

According to Chris Osunkwo, NCS public relations officer, Tin Can Island port, Lagos, what the dubious importers do is to bring in different items stocked in a single container. Osunkwu said that whenever a container has different items, it would be difficult for the scanners to detect all the items except the container was examined manually.

impounded containers
impounded containers

The new technique is different from the common practice of false and under-declaration of goods which was rampant in the past. The NCS did not wait for long to discover the new smuggling techniques which led to the increase in containers seized by the different commands and increase in revenue generation. By the end of last year, the NCS at Tin-Can Island had impounded a total of 115 containers of various types of contraband cargoes with duty paid value of N347.4 million.

Most of the containers had falsely and under-declared vehicles, used tyres, fridges, washing machines, kitchen cabinets and boxes of recorded video and audio CDs. Other impounded items included electric ovens, popcorn machines, computer bags, second hand clothes, furniture, soaps, new and electronics, ladies shoes and bags. According to the Tin Can Island command, the smaller and lighter items were most often sandwiched between the bigger and heavier ones, thereby denying government of millions of Naira in revenue.

During the same period, the Command impounded 18 vehicles and 22 containers load of teak wood meant for export, which contravened the export prohibition order. Tunji Aremu, NCS, Tin Can area command, said the seizures were either against the import prohibition list of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or cargoes under declared by the importers in their bid to shortchange government. According to him, the prohibited goods which were majorly brought into the country through China, were intercepted by the command anti-smuggling units within Nigeria in the year 2012.

Aremu bemoaned the level of under declaration of cargo contents by importers and their clearing agents. He said that this was one of the reasons why the NCS had not been able to achieve the 48 hours-cargo clearance as mandated by the federal government. He called on importers and their agents to try and adhere strictly to the provisions of the nation’s import policies including the prohibition list.

“Tin-Can Island Customs has zero tolerance for contraband goods and we will carry out 100 percent physical examination to ensure that such contraband goods do not pass through our ports. As importers bring in contraband cargoes, we will be seizing them to show them that we are on ground,” he said.

Meanwhile, the total revenue generated by the Tin Can Island command in 2012 stood at N206.4 billion, surpassing the N193.4 billion collected in 201 by about N13 billion.

Aremu said despite the challenges of modernisation of the command’s operations, a comparative analysis of the revenue generated in 2012 saw a significant progressive movement from the month of January to December. The figure, however, was N57.6 billion below the annual target of N264 billion given to the command by the NSC headquarters, Abuja. “This can be accounted for by the number of vessels that sailed in within the said period. However, revenue began to experience a slight decline, but was able to maintain a range above the N15 billion up to the month of December 2012,” he said.

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