Import duty collection: suspension rattles GT Bank


By Foster Obi

The suspension of Guaranty Trust Bank, GT Bank, from collecting import duty at the nation’s ports by the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, may have unsettled the bank judging from the revenue that the bank will lose because of this hammer.

Besides, the image and credibility of the bank which prides itself as synonymous with innovation, building excellence, superior financial performance and creating role models for society may have been tainted if feelers from stakeholders are anything to go by.

Inside sources said that the bank management may not be happy with the department in charge.

Although the NCS did not make public the main reason why the bank was suspended, checks show that it may not be unconnected with non remittance of duties collected in the past to the government coffers as directed by the National Assembly.

Efforts to get to get the Corporate Affairs Manager, Mrs Adegbite to comment on the issue did not yield fruit as she refused to pick her calls nor respond to questions to sent to her Whatsapp line

The House of Representatives Committee had last year given six  banks two weeks to reconcile their accounts with the consultant working with it or risk removal from duty collection.

Investigations into discrepancies in remittance of customs duty collected by commercial banks had taken a new turn last October when the House of Representatives Committee on Customs and Excise threatened to stop the banks from duty collection.

The six banks are GT Bank, Wema Bank, Providus Bank, UBA, Ecobank and Standard Chartered Bank.

The Chairman of the Committee, Leke Abejide (ADC, Kogi), at the public hearing, gave the banks two weeks to reconcile their accounts with the consultant working with the committee.

Mr Abejide said the committee will direct the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to deduct all outstanding obligations due to the government from the accounts of the respective banks.

According to the interim report of the consultant, which was sighted by PREMIUM TIMES, Ecobank has an outstanding commitment of N4.39 billion. The bank was yet to provide the remittance data of defunct Oceanic Bank, which Ecobank acquired in 2011.

Also, Standard Chartered Bank has an outstanding sum of N2.44 billion unremitted to the purse of the government while Providus Bank has an outstanding of N66.8 million to be remitted to the government.

United Bank of Africa (UBA) has an outstanding of N3.01 billion to be remitted to the government, according to the interim report.

The report noted that GT bank just forwarded its account statement to the consultants, hence, no reconciliation yet.

“Reconcile with our consultants. We are giving you 14days to do so. Anything after the said days, we will bring out the big stick against you by asking CBN to deduct from source, and we will also delete you from customs duties collection,” Mr Abejide said at the hearing.

He also frowned at some of the banks who sent representatives who are not conversant with the issue.

Mr Abejide, in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, said the committee is working to increase the revenue-generating capacity of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).

Yesterday, Nigeria Customs Service has suspended Guarantee Trust Bank from collection of duties on imported cargoes at Nigerian ports.

Comments by the National Public Relations Officer of the NCS, Timi Bomodi showed that the instruction came from the National Assembly.

Asked if the other banks affected, were not suspended, Bomodi said it is only GT Bank that is affected.

Reports show that the suspension has indirectly affected cargo clearance at the port because demurrages have started accruing on some cargoes that have already made payments through the GTB Bank.

GT Bank becomes the second bank that has been suspended from duty collection by the NCS since the warning came from National Assembly.

In February this year, the Nigeria Customs Service suspended Ecobank Plc from its Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS) II platform.

Because of this, importers and agents were not able to pay import duties or other approved Customs charges through the bank. This also affected cargo clearance at the port.

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