The Custom CG told a joint Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriation yesterday in Abuja, that the Customs has recorded a shortfall of 43 per cent in revenue collected in the course of the year, blaming government policies for the revenue loss.
According to him: “Import duty exemption took N86.4billion off the revenue that should have accrued to government; revenue conceded to the negotiable duty certificate accounted for N59.9billion of the 43 per cent revenue loss while import substitution and increased duty on importation of rice reduced revenue by N96.9billion.
Breakdown of the waiver induced revenue loss shows that, assemblers and manufacturers (CKD/BULK) accounted for N76.1billion, revenue held in indemnities from January to March for rice and sugar amounted to N5.4billion, while loss due to close of some excise factories and de-excising of some excisable goods took away N11.8billion from the revenue books. Other losses, according to Dikko, were due to waivers on petroleum products (N236,881,899,749.05) and N2.9billion was lost to ECOWAS trade liberalisation scheme for transactions in the economic sub-region.
The Customs CG also argued that the Free Trade Zone arrangement was being abused as smugglers now move their banned imports like rice to free zones without paying duty.
Said he: “Free zones are being misused. When we blocked the Seme border, these importers of banned products moved to TINAPA and Calabar port and cleared their goods without paying duty.
He said rice mills were closing shops due to shortage of rice paddies, a development that shows that Nigeria may not be ripe for the new tariff regime to which the Customs Service was losing revenue.
However, minister of finance and coordinating minister of the economy Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said some waivers granted by the government were sector-specific and were strategically designed to grow some sectors and create jobs for Nigerians.
She disclosed that government was taking a holistic look at the waivers to ascertain their gains, the revenue government was losing, and see if they have delivered on the set objectives like job creation and production, but stressed that government would be careful with the policies to avoid being seen as doing things “in a flip-flop manner”.
Meanwhile, the Senate differed with the finance minister on moneys accruing to the Excess Crude Account (ECA) in 2013.
Senator Ita Enang, who also chairs the Senate Rules and Business Committee, said that, from records available to the committee, $14.06 billion was inflows to the ECA while $9 billion was outflow, leaving a balance of $5.06 billion while Okonjo-Iweala insisted that the balance in the ECA stands at $4.3 billion.
The finance minister said the primary use of the account (ECA) was for the payment of oil subsidy for the country which, according to her, all tiers of government benefit from.
On the status of the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), Okonjo-Iweala said the Fund stood at $1 billion. “There have been no further payments into the SWF as far as I know,” she said.