Indications emerged at the weekend how some Indian companies in Nigeria evade payment of Customs Duty and abuse the Nigerian Customs Services’ Fast Track policy.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in line with the Ease of Doing Business policy of the Federal Government put in place the fast track system to enable large volume goods importers and manufacturing companies to take their consignments to their warehouses while the clearing process is going on, but the policy it was learnt, is being abused by some of the companies benefitting from the policy.
This came as Sunday Telegraph learnt that for years, most of fraudulent importers have abused this policy by not following the laid down procedures covering the policy. This is even as our investigation reveals that many Indian multinational companies in the country are involved in the fraud which results in loss of revenue to the government.
It further learnt that these companies not only disregard the rules covering the trade policy, but also use it to import un-customs goods.
NCS in its effort to facilitate trade introduced the fast track policy to assist manufacturers and large consignment importers exit their goods from the port easily and unhindered.
The policy provides that importers’ goods could be moved to their warehouses from the ports while customs 100 per cent examination would be carried out at the warehouse. It also provides that Customs will provide escorts for the containers to the owners’ warehouses with full documentations.
A case in point is a chain of Indian companies belonging to one Indian, all these companies (names withheld) are all on fast track due to their large consignment status and as manufacturing and repackaging firm in Nigeria.
But our investigations have revealed that these companies have long neglected the fast track procedure and in the process have been defrauding the Nigerian government of several billions of Naira on imports duty, VAT and other taxes.
In some of the documents sighted by our correspondent, abuses of Customs process and evasion of duty was discovered to have been going on in these companies over the years.
One of such abuses was their shipment on a vessel called Autumne with Bill of Lading number MAEUA 10383508 in 2016. They brought in 4x40ft containers. The containers were declared as powdered milk in jumbo bags.
According to our findings, the containers were moved from Apapa Port to their Ibeju Lekki office of the company without Customs escorts and no 100 per cent examination of the containers were carried out by the Customs in their premises as specified by the fast track guidelines.
It was also discovered that accurate duty was not paid by the company a trend that has been going for years till now.
An inside source in the company also hinted our correspondent that sometimes un-customs goods are brought in by the company which is not within their jurisdiction.
The source also said that the companies hide under the Free Trade Zone (FTZ) status to further evade Customs taxes they are supposed to pay to Federal Government.