Customs grants suspicious N79 billion import waivers, snubs auditor-general

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The Nigeria Customs Service in 2019 granted import duty waivers worth N78.5 billion to local and foreign companies including 14 members of staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in violation of financial regulations, the government’s audit report has revealed.

The agency granted a N78.5 billion waiver to companies and a N17.2 million waivers to staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The 2019 report is the latest by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (OAuGF).

Aghughu Adolphus, Nigeria’s auditor general, said in the report that the government agency failed to provide evidence of application or authorisation for the waivers granted.

This is in contravention of a federal financial regulation of December 2004 which resolved to stop import waivers except on goods imported by diplomatic missions, security departments and donations from foreign agencies.

According to this regulation, the constant seeking of import waivers impacted negatively on the government’s revenue generation.

“In order to stem the unpleasant development of the ever-increasing request for waiver or exemption of Custom Duties, VAT, and Port Charges on imported equipment, goods, and materials, government has decided that with effect from 2005, no waiver or exemption of Custom Duties, VAT, Port Charges and other Legitimate charges would be granted on imported equipment, goods, and materials except in respect of Defense, Security and Police,” it said.

“Waiver or exemption would only continue to be granted on importation by Diplomatic Missions and Donations of equipment, goods, and materials from foreign governments and agencies to non-profit making organizations or bodies in Nigeria.”

According to Mr Adolphus, “these anomalies could be attributed to weaknesses in the internal control system at the Nigeria Customs Service.”

He noted that such actions will lead to loss of revenue to the government; difficulty in funding budgets.

Mr Adolphus therefore asked the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, Hameed Ali, to provide reasons for the violation of the provisions of the treasury circular; furnish evidence of applications, authorisations/approvals before the waivers.

The auditor general asked Mr Ali to recover N78.46 billion and remit to the federation account and forward evidence of remittance to the Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly.

The audit report noted that it got no response from Customs’ management.

When PREMIUM TIMES contacted the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), its spokesperson, Joseph Attah, he said the NCS is only an implementing agency and not responsible for granting waivers or concessions.

“Nigeria Customs does not grant waivers; our job is only to implement what has been granted,” he said.

He added that waivers and concessions are only granted by the president through the Ministry of Finance.

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