As the Senate yesterday lampooned the Nigeria Custom Service (NCS) on non- remittance of operation surplus every year, the agency however told the Senate that it raked a total sum of N573, 190,265,605.41 as revenue between January and May 2020 fiscal year
The NCS also told the Upper Chamber that a total of 28, 844 items were seized from 2015 to date.
The Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali, retd disclosed these yesterday in Abuja during an interactive session on revenue generation with the Senator Francis Alimikhena, All Progressives Congress, APC, Edo North led Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff.
Specifically , a member of the committee and retired Custom officer , Senator Francis Adenigba Fadaunsi, PDP, PDP Osun East who accused the agency of not reflecting the surpluses in their reports before the committee, said, ” In 2019 alone , you made surplus of N34billion which is not reflected in the 2020 reports before us.”
Earlier in his opening remarks said that the interaction was part of the Committee’s oversight activities to assess the 2020 budget performance of the agency, update on recruitment exercise, number of seized goods, number auctioned and amount realized from the auction if any.
This revelation was made by the Comptroller Accounts, Sadiq Ibrahim Ismailia, when a delegation of Customs authorities led by the Deputy Comptroller General of Customs (Head, Human Resources), DCG Sanusi Abubakar Umar appeared before the Committee
In his submission, Deputy Comptroller General ( DCG) in charge of Human Resources, Sanusi Abubakar Umar who represented the Customs boss said that Customs was able to realise more than half of the targeted revenue for the year due to blockage of identified leakages .
Ismaila said, “As a result of blocking of identified areas of leakages and free flow of traffic for importers during the COVID-19 lockdown , our revenue generation increased rapidly to about N6 to N7billion per day , making us to rake in N573billion within five months which is more than half of the N957billion targeted revenues for us in 2020.
“From January to May this year, the performance of the budget is N37, 865867750 representing 15.90%. The target given to the service in terms of revenue was N1.6trillion but due to the COVID-19 pandemic the target was reviewed to N957billion . As at January to May, the service had collected N573, 190, 265, 605.21billion.”
According to Ismaila, the agency has so far spent the sum of N300million on its yet to be concluded recruitment exercise of 3,200 officers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also at the meeting, a member of the Committee, Senator Suleiman Kwari, APC, Kaduna North who had sought to know how the agency can claim it has spent N400million for training of its officers in view of the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions, also requested to know why the Customs Service never returns it unspent funds to treasury at the end of the fiscal year.
Another member of the Committee, Senator Sulaiman Kwari ( APC Kaduna North), pointedly challenged officials of Customs to explain what they do with such surpluses.
But the Customs DC in his response told the Committee that the revenue generating agency is not a treasury -sponsored agency expected to make returns to the treasury any amount not spent.
He said, “Customs is now a performance-based agency. We are not a treasury-sponsored agency, which normally makes return to the treasury any amount not spent.
“Where we have any shortfall, we don’t have anybody backing us and we cannot borrow from the bank.”
Also, Ismaila who explained that why it was true that the no mass training took place during the ongoing lockdown, said that the amount represented a rollover from January to March 2020.
On the non-return of unspent funds funds, the Deputy Comptroller General ( DCG) in charge of Human Resources, Sanusi Abubakar Umar said, “Customs is now a performance-based agency. We are not a treasury-sponsored agency, which normally makes return to the treasury any amount not spent. Where we have any shortfall, we don’t have anybody backing us and we cannot borrow from the bank.”
His explanation did not go down well with the committee members, who said the Service has not recorded any short fall but has rather exceeded its set target.
In his response, Umar said whenever the service wants to implement any project, it always experience delay from the Bureau of Public Procurement, adding, “Any delay from them costs us a huge delay.”
Speaking further, Senator Francis Fadahunsi who noted that in the agency’s surplus of 2018, about N34 billion was given back to Customs in 2019 as its own percentage, said, “Where is the surplus of 2019, which should have been given to you is 2020?” he queried, adding that the Service exceeded its target last year up to N1.35 trillion.
In his explanation, Ismaila said: “We have put the element of that surplus that we are expecting in the 2020 budget.”
Members of the panel however noted that the Service failed to provide the details of the surplus in the documents submitted to the Committee.
The panel asked the Service to, henceforth, provide the details of the money not used in previous budgets that it is rolling over to the next year.
In his report, the Comptroller, Technical Services, Hafiz Kalla, said that 28,894 seizures were made by the agency between 2015 and 2020.
Kalla however could not give a detailed breakdown of the seizures made to members of the Committee when he was asked to do so.
The Committee expressed disappointment with the seizure report and directed the leader of the delegation, DCG Umar, to inform the Comptroller General of Customs, Hammed Ali, to make further details of the report available to the Committee as soon as possible.
Members of the Committee however disagreed on whether to revert the targeted revenue for Customs in 2020 to N1.6trillion as earlier passed in December or retained it at N957billion proposed in the revised budget .
While Senator Gyang Istifanus Dung ( PDP Plateau North ) called for upward review of the targeted revenue , Senator Adamu Aliero ( APC Kebbi Central), kicked against it .
According to Aliero , the N957billion targeted in the revised budget is even not realisable as effects of COVID-19 will start reflecting in the agency’s revenue collection from July .
In his remarks at the end of the session, Chairman of the Committee, Senator Alimikhena told the Customs officers to sustain the tempo of high revenues intake the agency recorded within the last five months and the agency was given two weeks to return with a detailed report of all the items seized.