By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
Senate has queried the Comptroller General (CG) of Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Hamid Ali, over failure of the Service to remit the five percent of staff salaries to the Nigerian Pension Commission (NPC) over the past five years.
The query arose yesterday during the consideration of the Audited Accounts of revenue generating agencies of the federal government over the past five years by the Senate Committee on Public Accounts (SPAC).
Chairman of the Committee, senator Mathew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo North), raised an eye brow against the Customs boss, Hamid Ali, over the failure to remit the fund to the PENCOM.
He said the refusal of the Customs leadership to abide by the Constitutional provisions of the Pension Act, with regards to the pension of personnel, simply imply that the retirees of the Service have not been receiving their pensions.
Also speaking, senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe (Kwara Central), told the Customs CG that the money aught to hand been remitted to the PENCOM so long as NCS pays their staff monthly, be it half salary or full salary.
Oloriegbe lamented that a revenue generating agency like NCS should have no reason to fail to remit the five percent of staff wages to the PENCOM, even as he said the Service should look for where to raise money to remit the five per cent to the PENCOM.
Responding to the query, the CG, Ali Hamid, said the Nigerian Customs Service has been suffering over insufficient fund, saying this lack of fund explains why the Service appears unable to remit the five percent fund to the PENCOM.
Ali said that the seven percent collection costs which the NCS deducts from revenue collections has not been enough to pay their staff. He recalled that when he took over as the CG Customs, the agency depended on bailout to carry out its operations.
According to him, it was until President Muhammadu Buhari approved their inclusion in the Consolidated Salary Structure (CSS) that the NCS began to offset some of its financial commitments, pointing out that while the money for salary of staff are deducted directly from the seven per cent commission, that of pension is not directly deducted.
He however assured the senate that will the inclusion of Customs into the CSS of the federal government, the Service will be able to commence the remittances of backlog of the five percent to PENCOM.
He said the seven percent commissions which they deduct from revenue collections has never been enough, adding that it will not be wise to remove five per cent from the seven percent commission and pay to the PENCOM, when the remaining two percent will not be enough to pay staff salary.
Responding earlier to the allegations of non remittances of its revenue collections to the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), the Customs boss expressed surprise over the allegations.
He said he was just hearing the allegation, especially given that their collections and remittances by the agency have been automated since 2015, hence the issue of under remittances cannot have arisen.
On the N4.5billion loan to the Customs, which was given to them as loan from the N37billion special fund for rice level for the local production of rice, he said he is just hearing about the loan for the first time.
Though he said it could be part of the bailout out fund given to them by the government, he insisted that the NCS does not have any record of any loan from anybody.