The suspension of Guaranty Trust Bank plc for failing to refund import duty amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars collected on behalf of the Federal Government has left over 400,000 consignments stuck at the country’s port, according to the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA).
In a chat with our correspondent, the acting National President Association of ANLCA, Dr. Kayode lamented that the suspension of the bank has affected over 400,000 consignments, saying that the economy may have lost over N40 billion as consignments are trapped in the port owing to the suspension of the bank.
Recall that the Nigeria Customs Service had two weeks ago suspended the GTBank from the collection of import duty payments on cargoes, thereby subjecting importers and clearing agents to huge demurrages at the port.
However, Farinto condemned the bank for failing to address them despite importers and agents running into massive losses due to demurrage charges, adding that the amount Nigerian importers are losing due to storage and demurrage is high and the problem is not yet over.
According to him, these consignments are still trapped in the port and agents cannot clear them, saying that even some who have made assessments cannot pay the duty, and 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 billion 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 of Customs at the National House of Assembly 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 the owners have opened their Form M 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 are now trapped and there are over 40 per cent of vehicles that needed to be cleared from the seaport that has gotten assessment that cannot also move forward and cannot go ahead.
“There is about 10 per cent of people who have actually paid duty and as a result of the suspension the status has not changed on the part 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 from today they should not open their Form M or make any assessment or transaction through GTBank again. This becomes 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,” he lamented.
Said he: “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 remittance has not been done.
“When you hear that Customs have generated N2 trillion, these are the kind of factors that are militating 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 cannot tell you that they are not aware of this. Before it actually got to this dirty or messer level, they might have been some connivances between the CBN on one part and the Accountant-General on another part for GTB to say some amount of money has not been remitted into the Federal Government account and nobody seems to be talking to us. Not even the National Assembly that directed that GTBank should be removed from the portal,” he said.