The House of Representatives on Wednesday uncovered the sum of N10 billion belonging to Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) trapped in five banks operating in the country.
Chairman, House Committee on Customs and Excise, Hon. Leke Abejide who presided over the investigative hearing on the trapped fund which was attended by management teams of the banks threatened that the House will take punitive measures against the bank if they fail to remit the money to the government.
He further disclosed that the House may be forced to ask the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to deduct the money directly from the source, adding that the Federal Ministry of Finance and Nigeria Customs Service to delist the banks from the list of banks collecting Customs duties if they failed to pay the amount.
He said: “we have already checked five banks and we discovered N10 billion outstanding against them. We have given each of the banks the opportunity to come and defend themselves against what we found out.
“We are working with the Minister of Finance on this and we have agreed on what to do. We have also informed the Central Bank of Nigeria and the EFCC is aware of this.
“We have invited you to tell us what you are disputing in the amount we discovered against you and submit all necessary documents to clear your name. Where you are unable to do that to our satisfaction, please come with the cheque of what you are owing.”
Hon. Abejide who accused two of the banks of failing to make outright disclosure in their communications to the Committee explained that the Committee through its consultants had to make extra efforts to unearth the actual amount of money standing against them.
He alleged that the records presented to the Committee by a bank did not include records of another bank which they took over, saying “when you bought the bank, you took over both the assets and liabilities. So, you have to supply us with all the documents we need, including records from the bank within seven days.
“We have been on this assignment for about a year now, it is because of COVID-19 that we could not do much last year but we are determined to finish it before the end of 2021.
“The assignment is so important because the major issue confronting Nigeria today is inadequate revenue and this is as a result of leakages everywhere.
“We are going to make sure that any money belonging to the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) that have not been given to them or that is being delayed or used for business is recovered, we are determined.
“We have not done much, we have only checked five banks and we have discovered N10.6 billion,’’ he said.
Hon. Abejide however threatened noted that: “If you fail to do that, we will have no option than to ask the Nigeria Customs Service and the Federal Ministry of Finance to remove you from the list of collecting. You must also provide us monthly reconciliation, proof of remittances to Customs.”
While accusing some of the banks of being involved in sharp practices, the lawmaker alleged that the affected banks have developed certain internal software through which they remit money to the Customs, with a view to shortchange government.
In his presentation, the representative of one of the banks, Mr Haruna Musa and other representatives who spoke at the session denied that they were owing to the Customs any money due to either under-remittance, non-remittance or late remittance of revenue.
Mr Musa, however, said that the bank could not provide the committee with hard copies of documents covering the period when the bank documents were burnt but assured that they will provide the committee with electronic records covering the period.
Also speaking, the representative of another bank, Mr Kola Adeleke who denied the allegation argued that the bank has done lots of internal reconciliation and discovered that the money being listed against them have actually been paid.
In the same vein, the representative of one of the banks, Mr Korode Adenowo observed that there was a misconception in the entire process of documentation because there was no exit meeting with the consultants.
On his part, the representative of another bank, Mr Nasiru Mohammed who posited that the Bank has paid all the revenue accruing to Nigeria Customs Service, stressed the need to initiate another reconciliation process with the consultants.
He pledged that the Bank will not hesitate to pay whatever balance that will be against them.
To this end, Hon. Abejide issued a two weeks ultimatum to all the banks to reconcile their records with the Consultants working for the committee and report back.