…EFCC should investigate GTB –Farinto
As the suspension of GTB as a Customs Duty collecting bank in the Nigerian ports enters week two, Nigerian importers and their agents have lamented that they have lost over N40 billion in demurrages and storage charges on their consignments held in the ports by government because of the bank’s failure to remit to federation account the monies it received on its behalf from the importers.
Acting President of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr Kayode Farinto who dropped this hint at the weekend, further calling on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) Plc over the alleged failure to remit to the Federal Government the dozens of billions of Naira in Customs Duty paid by the importers.
Farinto lamented that the suspension of the bank has affected over 400,000 consignments, even as he disclosed that his members are calling him lamenting the loss they are incurring as some of their consignments which have paid duty could not be released to them because the GTB’s debt to the federal government.
This is even as he stated that the economy may have lost over N40 billion from the ports owing to the suspension of the bank by customs.
Recall that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) had two weeks ago unannounced the suspension of GTB from collection of import duty, thereby subjecting importers and clearing agents to suffer huge demurrages at the ports.
The National Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Customs Service, Deputy Comptroller Timi Bomodi had explained that the suspension was on the directive of the National Assembly.
Dr Farinto further lampooned GTB for fail ing to address the stakeholders, despite the loss incurred by importers and agents running into billions of Naira.
He said, “The amount that Nigerian importers are losing as a result of storages and demurrages is running high and the problem is not yet over. These consignments are still trapped in the ports and agents cannot clear them.
Even some who have made assessments cannot pay duty. It is running to over N40 billion now and that is very unfortunate.
“We have a situation on the ground where nobody is talking to Nigerians. Nobody is talking to our stakeholders, Freight Forwarders or Customs Brokers. That is why there is a need for us to make the world know what is happening in the maritime industry.
“We have a situation whereby GTB must have erred through the issue of reconciliation. We heard that GTB has not remitted some hundreds of billions to the Federation account and they have collected this money on behalf of the federal government and that was what led to their suspension.
“The Committee on Customs at the House of Representatives directed Customs to suspend GTB from the portal. GTB has been suspended and some consignments have been trapped.
“As I talk to you over 400,000 containers throughout the federation who open their Form M through GTB cannot proceed further haven’t gotten their Pre Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) because they must pay the duty through the Commercial or dealer bank where you have opened your Form ‘M’ which are trapped now and there are over 40 per cent of vehicles that needs to be cleared from the seaport which has gotten assessments that can also move forward and cannot go ahead.
“There are about 10 per cent of people who have actually paid duty and as a result of the suspension, the status has not changed in the portal of customs and they cannot move forward in the area of clearance of the goods.
“Hence we are calling on freight forwarders to make sure that they should not open any more of their Form ‘M’ or make any assessment or transaction through GTB.
“This has become imperative in the view of the fact that nobody is even talking to us. We sent a letter to GTB on this particular issue for them to address us and let us know what is happening but everybody is avoiding us. That is why I want to challenge the EFCC to wade in.
“I don’t know why the EFCC has not come into this issue. We are talking about the Federation accounts. This money has been collected on behalf of the federal government and remittances have not been done.
“When you hear that customs could not generate up to N2 trillion, these are the kind of factors that are militating against remittance. You would now see a situation where some of the commercial banks collect this money on behalf of the Federal Government and will not remit as at when due.
“So I believe it is about an issue of connivance, because the CBN and the Accountant General of the Federation cannot tell us that they are not aware of this. Before it actually got to this dirty or messy level, they might have been some connivance between the CBN on one part and the Accountant-General of the Federation on another for GTB to say some amount of money have not been remitted into the Federal account and nobody seems to be talking to us. Not even the National Assembly that directed that GTB should be removed from the portal,” Farinto stated.