282 vessels missing from NPA in 6 years —Senate - Welcome to Uju Ayalogu's Blog

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Tuesday, 18 July 2017

282 vessels missing from NPA in 6 years —Senate

282 vessels missing from NPA in 6 years —Senate

• SMUGGLING IS THE GREATEST THREAT TO NIGERIA’S ECONOMY ―SARAKI

 Nigerian Ports Authority vesselsTHE Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariffs, headed by Senator Hope Uzodinma, said on Monday that a total of 282 vessels got missing at the various terminals of the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) between 2010 and 2016.

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Uzodinma, who stated this at a public hearing on “Smuggling – a threat to Nigeria’s quest to self-sufficiency in rice production,” said the Senate was in possession of documents indicating that such number of vessels got missing between 2010 and 2016.

At the public hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariffs, he said smuggling had led to financial bleeding of the economy.

According to him, the documents available to the Senate showed names of the vessel owners and the NPA officials who released them.

He said goods worth over N7 trillion were smuggled into Nigeria annually, adding that latest reports from the World Bank indicated that $15 billion (N4.35 trillion) worth of goods were smuggled through the seaports alone annually.

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He also added that the report indicated that goods worth $5 billion (N1.45 trillion) were smuggled into Nigeria through Benin Republic.

He said: “In the process of our investigation, we discovered that 282 vessels are missing at NPA. We want the NPA to come and explain what happened to the vessels that disappeared from terminals. We have names of the releasing officers.

“Put together, it means that goods worth over N7 trillion are smuggled into the country each year. The frightening thing here is that the annual turnover in the hands of smugglers is more than our annual federal budget.”

He stated further that the report by the World Bank also stated that more than 25 per cent of the total annual revenue collected by Customs Service was lost to smugglers.

Uzodinma said: “If you go by the projected revenue of the service for this year, which is approximately N600 billion, it means the service will lose about N200 billion in revenue this year alone.”

He said the Senate had also confirmed that leakages abound in the Customs system despite the introduction of the Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS).

He added that “a major area of concern here has to do with misinvoicing by international traders, abuse of free trade zone policies and temporary import permit.”

While declaring the public hearing open, the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, said smuggling of goods into the country was the greatest threat to the nation’s economy.

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Saraki said unless the monster of smuggling was tamed, efforts to reposition the economy would not yield results.

He said the nation had, in the last 10 years spent over $7 billion to boost local production, adding that such funds would go to waste if smuggling was not stopped.

“My personal presence here this morning alongside the Senate Leader is to make a point of the importance that this Senate places on this subject matter.

“For me personally, it is my view that the greatest threat to our economy is this issue of smuggling.

“The level of smuggling we are seeing cannot continue because it will definitely rubbish all the policies of government if allowed to go on. I am saying this with all sincerity and all level of responsibility and I tell you why.

“Today, the greatest threat to small scale farmers is smuggling. Today, rice farmers who have gone to take loans either from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) or from commercial banks are being threatened by rice coming in from across the borders at highly subsidised rate.

“The meaning of this is that the imported rice will always be cheaper than those produced by our farmers. A time will come, if we do not do anything, these farmers will not be able to pay their loans to the banks and this will result in serious crisis.

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The banks that have given loans to these farmers will also have crisis in their hands. And the CBN that has intervened with billions of naira will not be able to recoup its money.

“The processors who have invested in rice mills at the beginning of this administration will also be threatened if we do not address the issue of rice smuggling.

“If we do not address the area of smuggling, this investment will go to waste. This is the severity of the issue before us today.

“Any institution, whether it is the National Assembly or any other one, in order to support the success of our president, we must join to stop smuggling. Without it, we should just forget the issue of diversification or increased agricultural production.

We will only pay lip service to issue of agricultural production if we do not address the issue of smuggling and that is why I made it a point to come here personally to drive this message,” he said.

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