The Senate Joint Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, and Marine Transport has queried the Nigerian Ports Authority over 282 vessels allegedly missing from the nation’s sea ports.
This is as the committee frowned at the failure of the Managing Director of the NPA, Ms. Hadiza Usman, to appear before it, at two consecutive meetings despite invitations extended to her.
The Chairman of the joint Committee, Hope Uzodinma, speaking yesterday during the investigative
hearing on the al- leged N30 trillion leakages in Customs and other agencies, said the committee would consider it to be a financial crime, if Usman fails to provide the explanations required of her.
The committee subsequently issued a four day ultimatum to Usman to provide explana- tion on the whereabouts of the missing vessels.
“We are looking for these vessels. We have the dates of arrival, the ports of discharge and manifest. Everything is with us, but from information available to us, no money was collected by either the Customs, the NPA or any other person. So, you have four days to do your written explanation otherwise we will consider it a financial crime,” Uzodinma said.
“There are also recent missing vessels that we discovered. I mean recent ones that happened under the new management. The NPA is the custodian of the vessels, it received the cargoes and the terminal is theirs. We want to know under whose authority the cargoes were released,” Uzodinma added.
The Senator also disclosed that the committee’s preliminary investigations have revealed that the activities of a cabal at the ports had cost the country over N30 trillion in loss of revenue.
The cabal, he said, connive with officials to carry out the infractions in daily transactions at the ports, commercial banks, shipping companies, terminal owners and operators.
“The nature and methodolo- gies of these infractions include abuse of Form M and violation of foreign exchange manual issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), incorrect classification, under-valuation, under-declaration and incorrect declaration. Others are incorrect origin, error in calculation, tem- porary importation, exemptions and waivers, forex manipula- tions, unit cost analysis an excise, smuggling and illegal removal of cargo from terminals, lack of exit certificate by vessels,” he said.
Uzondinma however pledged the determination of the com- mittee to work with relevant agencies to stop the fraudulent practices, adding that all those indicted would be prosecuted according to the law.
“We shall zero our search light on these areas of infraction and we are certain that our suspi- cions shall be confirmed. Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Ports Authority, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), ship- ping companies, operators of bonded terminals and importers and exporters have questions to answer,’’ he said.
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki who declared the hearing open reiterated that the Senate would expose corruption while carrying out its oversight functions, and block all loopholes that allow leakages in the system.
“We are determined to reverse these financial leakages to en- able us get the much needed resources to fund our children’s education, healthcare and fix the potholes on our roads. I urge you not to leave any stone unturned to ensure that we in- crementally eliminate waste and corruption in the management of our resources,’’ Saraki said.