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Investigations

Accountant exposes how First Bank, three others, pinch millions from depositors’ accounts

-N98.4 Million missing from Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital account alone

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First Bank office used to illustrate the story

Forensic auditors examining the bank accounts of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital Nnewi, in Anambra State, were stunned to discover that the health institution had been a victim of account manipulation by four different banks over a period of 16 years.

Between 2000 and 2016 the Teaching Hospital had been fleeced of a total N98,390, 184.05 through fraudulent manipulations of its corporate accounts by its bankers – First Bank, Eco Bank, Zenith Bank and United Bank for Africa (UBA).

Millions of unsuspecting bank account owners in Nigeria may never know how much have been stolen from them through unscrupulous manipulations by even their most favourite banks. Banks, cashing in on depositors’ lack of technical ability to scrutinize their accounts and detect possible infractions may have bilked billions of naira from customers over the years through fraudulent excess charges.

SATELLITE TIMES gathered that upon detection of the serial infractions, a consultant, Mr. Victor Inyiama, acting on behalf of the Teaching Hospital lodged a petition with the Consumer Protection Department of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The apex bank forwarded the claims of the complainants to the affected banks. However, dissatisfied with the outcomes of the CBN arbitration which let all the four accused banks off the hook, the complainant recourse to petitioning the House of Representatives.

Upon a Forensic audit conducted on the accounts of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital with First Bank of Nigeria, the bank was found to have manipulated the client’s accounts between 2003 and 2016 with the application of excess charges amounting to N86, 250.942.71.

In another documents trail, it was found that between January 2000 and December 2015, excess charges totalling N11, 619, 478.84 Naira were made on the accounts of the same customer: Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital (NAUTH) with Zenith Bank Plc.

Ecobank, also involved in the controversial excess charges on the Teaching Hospital’s accounts, was found to have taken out N347, 583.30 from one of the accounts between August 2010 and May 2017.

Documents obtained by SATELLITE TIMES show that excess charges resulting from Commission on Turn-over (COT), management fee, and internet banking also occurred on the Teaching Hospital’s accounts with UBA Plc between November 2004 and December 2009. Together with accrued interests, the amount was put at N172, 179.20 based on audit findings.

Evidence available show that the four banks did not absolutely refute the claims of excess charges when a formal complaint was lodged by the customer. Rather, they sought an escape route and believed to have found one in the Time Bar Policy of the Central Bank which stipulates that complaints about transactions must be lodged within 6 (Six) years of the date of infraction (the transaction date).

Fact-checks by SATELLITE TIMES revealed that the Time Bar Policy exempts all complaints related to fraud; complaints previously lodged with the CBN or financial institutions; and complaints related to international electronic payment transactions.

The rationale behind the Time Bar Policy is so as to align with the provisions of other statutes such as the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2013; the CBN Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regulation for banks and other financial institutions in Nigeria 2013; and the Statutes of Limitation – Record Retention.

Following the intervention of the House of Representatives, Ecobank, UBA and Zenith Bank made a U-turn acceding to pay back the excess charges to the Teaching Hospital. Consequently, the three banks credited the complainant’s accounts accordingly: Eco Bank, N347, 583. 30; UBA N172, 179.20 and Zenith Bank N11. 619, 478.84.

The three banks however insisted the refunds were strictly done “in recognition of existing cordial business relationship with the customer”.

First Bank which has the highest refund of N86.2 million to make is sticking to its gun and neither the CBN nor the House of Representatives appears capable of compelling it to pay.

The CBN says that while the actions of Ecobank, UBA and Zenith Bank in making refunds to the customer is commendable, “The CBN is constrained from requesting First Bank to make any refunds.”

A document from First Bank dated June 8, 2018 with the reference no: Internal Audit/CIM65188/A00, jointly signed by Peter Nzeragu and Ben Opiah both of the Internal Audit department, reads: “We held meetings with the management of the University Teaching Hospital who acknowledged satisfaction with the clarification. However, the issue has lingered because of the Consultant’s refusal to withdraw the claim but stated that the onus lied on the Consultant for further discussion on the matter.”

First Bank, insisting on time bar, explained that “our review then commenced from November 2010” not from 2003 when the controversial charges began on Management Fees, COT, and interests on overdrafts.

Countering First Bank, the Chartered Accountants, Vincent Inyiama & Co, who detected the excess charges classify the infractions as fraud and thus insist they cannot be said to be Statute Bar.

Almost all the banks argued that they had no case to answer on excess charges related to electronic banking services.

Section 10 of the CBN Guide to Bank Charges (2004) stipulates that all charges on electronic banking services were negotiable.

Eco Bank specifically citing the CBN Guide argued that the customer was not entitled to a refund resulting from electronic banking charges, “since the customer did not negotiate any rate with that bank.”

The bank however failed to highlight an important portion of the guideline which says:

Where a charge is ‘negotiable’, banks and OFI, are required to draw the attention of customers to their rights to negotiate and the two parties are required to naturally agree on the applicable interest and/or charge via a verifiable means.” 

In the case of the Teaching Hospital, the attention of the customer was not drawn to its right to negotiation thus exposing it to insidious financial harms caused by banks’ controversial nibbling at customers’ deposits.

Joyce Idiahi, a Customer Relations Officer with one of the affected four banks told SATELLITE TIMES her desk rarely receives complaints bothering on excess charges. Asked if that was not because customers are largely unaware of these excess charges, she added:

“My bank complies with the Central Bank directives that we send monthly statement of accounts to all our customers, be they individual or corporate account holders. But what you are saying is frightening because if just one customer is hit with almost N100 million in excess charges, the volume across the country can only best be imagined.”

Investigations

EXCLUSIVE: 10 mystery containers shipped into Nigeria by CMA CGM Delmas

– Police suspect arms and ammunition.

– cargoes cleared without physical examination.

– Warrant of Arrest on CMA CMG Shipping Manager.

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CMA CGM Centaurus
CMA CGM Centaurus used to illustrate the story - 'EXCLUSIVE: 10 mystery containers shipped into Nigeria by CMA CGM Delmas'

The true contents of 10 containers shipped into Nigeria under mysterious circumstances are now subjects of diverse speculations among port workers in Lagos just as a powerful syndicate believed to be behind the shipment has been deploying its influence within the Nigerian Police Force, the Nigeria Customs Service, Ports Terminal Operators and elsewhere to hush the matter. The contents of these containers remain uncertain especially as they were cleared from the port without any physical examinations, using apparently falsified shipping documents to pass through the clearing process.

Documents obtained by SATELLITE TIMES show that the ten containers were shipped into the country by a shipping company called CMA CMG Delmas Nigeria Shipping Ltd with office at 26 Creek Road, Apapa, Lagos. The consignments arrived TinCan Island Port Lagos from Jakarta, Indonesia on board a vessel named Maersk Conakry/CMA-CGM with voyage number 8W100E. The consignee was given as J.I. Ejison International Ltd with address as 109 Upper New Market Road, Onitsha, Anambra State.

Findings by this newspaper show that the 10 containers (5 x 20-Foot containers with Sea Way Bill No. ID20271634 and another 5 x 20-Foot containers with Sea Way Bill No. ID20271677) were manifested as cartons of soap with J.I. Ejison International Ltd as the consignee. At the time of the import, soap was a prominent item on the Import Prohibition List of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Particulars of the 10 mystery containers

The10 mystery containers have the following as their container numbers and seal numbers:

CAXU3378488 D6701293 12500KG

IPXU3358657  D6701484  12500KG

TRLU3957001  D6701386  12500KG

ECMU1295120 D6701340 12500KG

GESU1373150  D6701381  12500KG

ECMU1348472 D668863812500KG

CNCU1529716 D6688637 12500KG

ECMU1542317 D6688581 12500KG

XINU1528288 D6688590 12500KG

FC1U3450531 D6688503 12500KG

On arrival of the 10 containers at the port of destination in Nigeria, the original Manifest and Bills of Lading showing the cargoes as prohibited goods were tampered with and new ones generated in their place. Following these, key shipping documents were altered just as the name of the consignee was changed from J.I. Ejison International Ltd to Fadobra Ventures Ltd with address as 44 Abiola Oluwa Street, Lagos. The description of goods was changed from “cartons of soap” to “Manicure and Pedicure sets”.

Ports insiders told SATELLITE TIMES that these changes, described as “grave” and accommodated by CMA CMG were not consistent with best practices, particularly the Port Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) given that the e-Form M and e-Manifest had already been lodged and once so done cannot be reversed.

Explaining the malpractices, the port insider said: “It is like Ekene Dilichukwu Motors receiving 10 cartons of milk from Company A to be transported from Lagos to Port Harcourt. But after the goods had arrived destination, the waybill is changed to read 10 cartons of nails while the name of the owner is changed from Company Ato Company Z”.

SATELLITE TIMES was able to obtain a copy of the Form M, one of the most important documents used in shipping transactions. The Form M No. 20140069224 used in this controversial transaction was altered in favour of Fadobra Ventures Ltd instead of J.I Ejison International Limited – the original beneficiary.

Form M

Not a few maritime operators told this newspaper that the Form M could only have been forged given that at the inception of any importation, the importer/consignee, in this case J.I Ejison International Limited, must first apply for and obtain Form M only after meeting specified requirements including providing the company’s tax record as contained in its unique Tax Identification Number (TIN). Form M are issued by banks to an import company only after the said company had presented itself to mandatory scrutiny, including stringent Forex guidelines and money laundering prevention measures. As a result, a Form M obtained by one company cannot be transferred to another company just as a Form M obtained by a company for the importation of a specified item cannot be utilised even by the same company to import a different type of item.

SATELLITE TIMES investigations revealed that virtually every document associated with the 10 mystery containers is riddled with discrepancies. The shipping company CMA CMG claims that in swapping both the consignees and the contents of the containers, it acted on instruction from the shipper (Messers. Sea Air & Land Forwarding Ltd)leading to an amendment dated 27th April 2015.  Curiously, other documents show that the amendments to the consignee’s name and contents were carried out by CMA CMG on 18th March 2015. This was 40 days before the purported instructions from the shipper.

Yet another glaring anomaly in the documentation is that while the amended bill of lading describes the 10 containers as containing manicure and pedicure sets, the cargo was eventually released by the shipping company CMA CMG, as the prohibited item, soap. This is clearly captured in CMA CMG’s delivery order issued on 8th May 2015, a copy of which was obtained by this newspaper. This development led dock workers tracking the mystery cargoes to second-guessing the true contents of the 10 containers which they said might neither be soap nor manicure and pedicure sets as alleged.

Botched physical examination

Prince Jide Olowu, a Customs agent familiar with the Nigeria’s current Clearing & Forwarding regime, told SATELLITE TIMES that irrespective of the claims by any importer, the only way to ascertain the true contents of a container is by subjecting it to physical examination.

“I must say that because of corruption, the Customs is very selective when it comes to physical examination, but at least, that was how recent imports containing Tramadol were detected”, Olowu said.

Though the shipping company, CMA CMG’s claims the 10 mystery containers were subjected to 100% physical examination by Customs officials before they were released to the importers, documents available to SATELLITE TIMES show that no physical examinations was carried out.

The 10 containers were supposedly transferred on Saturday 9th May 2015 to Don Climax Bonded Terminal for 100% examination by the Customs and other statutory agencies of government. Shipping documents however show that the 10 containers were released by Customs, CMA CGM Nigeria Shipping Ltd and security agencies earlier days earlier – on/or before 8th May 2015.

Prince Olowu assured it is never a normal practice for cargoes to be released to the consignee (the last stage in the clearing process) before the same cargois transferred to a Bonded Terminal (in this case Don Climax) for 100% physical examination.

Additional evidence showing the 10 containers were never subjected to physical examination before they were released to Fondora Ventures Ltd can be found in documents from the official records of Tin Can Island Container Terminal (TICT). Whilst CMA CGM claim the 10 containers were transferred on 9th May 2015 to Don Climax Bonded Terminal for 100% examination by Customs and other statutory agencies of government, the containers were still in the custody of TICT as evidenced by receipts of rent payment on the 10 containers to TICT. Receipts show the 10 containers were still attracting rent at TICT even on 9th May 2015 when they were supposedly already transferred to Don Climax Bonded Terminal.

Payment receipt

As tongues began wagging over the 10 mystery containers, the attention of the Zone 2 Monitoring Unit of the Nigeria Police was soon attracted. Statements made by TICT Terminal Manager and other workers to Police investigators at Force Headquarters Alagbon on March 2018 show that the 10 containers were still at TICT at the time they were said to have been transferred to Don Climax Bonded Terminal for 100% physical examination. The Terminal Manager and other TICT staff members had been invited by the Police to say what they knew in connection to the 10 containers.

Warrant of Arrest on CMA CMG Shipping Manager

On 20th April 2017, a Warrant of Arrest was issued by the Igbosere Magistrate Court in respect of CMA CMG Shipping Manager, Mr. Anthony Ukawoko. A copy of the warrant obtained by SATELLITE TIMES shows that police investigators had stated that CMA CMG “conspired to import prohibited goods suspected to be arms and ammunition by Fondora Ventures Ltd, J.I Ejison Int. Ltd, F.N Njoku, Donatus Obele and Don Climax Bonded Terminal and Ventures”.

The Police came to that hypothesis following the serial contradictions in the documentation process for the 10 containers as well as the apparent determination to conceal the true contents of the containers, changing them from soap to manicure and pedicure sets and back to soap which by the evasion of physical examination remains a mystery.

None of the telephone messages sent to the Customs Public Relations Officer, Mr. Joe Attah, were reverted to just as CMA CMG staffers refused to grant entry to SATELLITE TIMES’s reporter who had gone to the Lagos office of the shipping company to obtain official reaction for the story.

Resorting to the services of a courier company, GIG Logistics, SATELLITE TIMES on 28th September 2018 in Abuja sent a two-page media enquiry to the Managing Director of CMA CMG. About three weeks later, the company sent back the same media enquiry to this newspaper without commenting on any of the issues raised.

In November 2018, the same reporter returned to CMA’s office and after two days of attempts, the media enquiry was received and acknowledged by a staffer who claimed the shipping company had no Public Relation Officer.

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Investigations

Whistleblower hounded for exposing corruption in Federal Medical Centre Keffi

-millions diverted to private pockets, unqualified lab scientists employed in haematology unit

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Entrance to the Federal Medical Centre Keffi [Photo credit: Google]

A senior Medical Laboratory Scientist on grade level 10 at the Federal Medical Centre Keffi, Umeh Gabriel Uzoma, has known no peace for blowing the whistle on a cabal of corrupt officials who for years set up different conduits, funnelling government money into private accounts.

Since exposing what turned out to be serial corruption, life has become a living hell for the whistleblower whose salary payment was frozen pronto as he faces a technical dismissal.

Umeh has suffered multiple harassment and indignities to a point a female colleague once spat in disgust, asking him: “what are you still doing here?” That incident was succeeded by “violent assaults from my head of unit, Mrs. Afolake Bello, who held my phone and asked me to leave the laboratory.

Umeh’s actions as a whistleblower was inspired by a circular with Reference FMC/KF/ADM/538 from the office of the Medical Director to all HODs/Units. The circular, dated 23 January 2017 has the heading: ILLEGAL COLLECTION OF CASH FROM PATIENTS.

It reads: “Management has observed that some staff are in the habit of collecting cash illegally from patients for some services rendered. No staff should collect cash under any circumstances from patients but to direct such patients to pay at the bank.”

The circular goes on to say: “It is the responsibility of the Head of Department/Unit to ensure as a matter of duty that all services rendered are properly captured and payment made via the EMR platform. Any officer that violet this will be meted with proper sanctions. This should be considered as the last warning.”

The whistler exposed how cash was collected from patients and remitted to the HOD, Laboratory Services, Mr. Haruna Muhammad Aminat and Head of Unit Mrs. Afolake Bello Saidat including cash for cross matching of blood and from sales of pints of blood.

He also exposed how unqualified ‘cover-up’ staff were accommodated as part of the ring perpetrating illegal activities in the Laboratory Services Department of the hospital under Mrs. Afolake Bello Saidat, head of the Haematology unit and the HOD, Mr. Haruna Muhammad Aminat who the whistleblower alleged would bring into the laboratory, a personal genotype machine and conduct medical test to enrich his pocket.

According to Umeh, “My HOD Laboratory Services, Mr. Haruna Muhammad Aminat and Head of Unit Mrs. Afolake Bello Saidat asked us to be collecting money from patients and their relatives remitting it to our senior colleague by name Abdul Mohammed for hospital services rendered instead of patients or their relatives making payments at the cash point or bank, which I asked patients to pay and bring receipts of payments.”

Documents obtained by SATELLITE TIMES show how the directive from the Chief Medical Director was brazenly violated. Secret log-book leaked to SATELLITE TIMES detailed records of cash collected from patients. Most times patients were extorted as monies they were made to pay were above official charges.

Quacks employed in the Haematology Unit

The whistleblower revealed that some members of staff in the haematology unit are not qualified, adding that they were ostensibly smuggled into the hospital employ just to play the money game.

Documents revealed that they were not licensed by the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria (MLSCN). The implications of unlicensed practitioners made to work in one of the most sensitive units of the hospital where blood samples are analysed know no bound.

The Whistleblower described the unlicensed staff members as “cover-up staffs”. Though not qualified to work in the laboratory, they are “untouchable”.

SATELLITE TIMES obtained a letter dated 31st May 2017 from the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria (MLSCN) to the Keffi Chapter of the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria. Some staff members working as Medical Laboratory Scientists at FMC Keffi were considered as “either not qualified or are yet to be registered with MLSCN” as their names were not found in the MLSCN data base.

The letter from MLSCN named Namo Allu Fidelis and Lekshak Grace Sunday, emphasising that “the underlisted names were not found in our database which suggests that they are either not qualified or are yet to be registered with MLSCN”. The letter was signed by G.A Aikpitanyi-Iduitua, Deputy Director, Practitioners’ Regulation and Discipline.

The MLSCN is the National Medical Laboratory Accreditation Agency, a federal statutory body established by Act 11, 2003 which is responsible for the registration and licensing of Medical Scientists in Nigeria.

After Umeh squealed on the corrupt officers, he was first deployed from the haematology unit to the histopathology unit where his services were not needed.

Even after he had vigorously argued that he studied haematology and clinical chemistry and that he lacked the requisite knowledge and skill set to work in the histopathology unit, he was given a deaf ear. Histopathology is the study of changes in tissue caused by disease. Haematology, on the other hand, is the branch of medicine concerned with the study of the cause, prognosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases related to blood. The whistleblower is a trained haematologist.

After the redeployment to the Histopathology Unit where he was forced to work as a quack, to which he refused, Gabriel Umeh’s salary was stopped November 2017. Upon enquiry, the accounts department informed him his name had been removed from the schedule of payment in the Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS).

SATELLITE TIMES visited FMC Keffi seeking official response. The Chief Medical Director, Yahaya Baba Adamu, said he was only seven days on the job.

Chief Medical Director, Federal Medical Centre Keffi, Yahaya Baba Adamu [Photo credit: Mr Adamu’s Facebook page]

“I am actually in the process of taking over. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get this privilege information since I arrived here” the new Chief Medical Director said.

Yahaya described Satellite Times investigation as, “something quite commendable” adding it was “an eye opener” as it will help him to widen his searchlight. He pledged for time to look into the allegations and clean up the system. That was on 12 July 2018.

Two months later, in September, SATELLITE TIMES returned to the hospital but met with hostilities from the secretary to the Chief Medical Director. This reporter was however able to speak to some patients who pleading anonymity lamented countless cases of corruption they had experienced in the hands of hospital officials.

Located some 52 kilometres from Abuja, the hospital’s proximity to the neighboring states of Benue, Plateau, Kaduna, Kogi and Niger, contributes to the increase in the number of referral cases to the FMC Keffi.

Yet another attempt was made by this newspaper in November to get an official response, this time from the Public Relation Officer, Mr. Abdullahi Mohammed. Speaking over the phone, he promised to get back but never did.

A staff member of the hospital (name withheld) corroborated the whistleblower’s story, adding that among the senior officials who sat in a group with the new Chief Medical Director inside his office to welcome SATELLITE TIMES in July, were actually those mentioned in the petition written by the whistleblower.

“How can the same people be in the group investigating their own case,” she quipped.

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Investigations

Exclusive: 44 companies import 500 containers using cloned Form M  

-over N9 billion diverted in tariff fraud

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A photo of Apapa Port in Lagos, Nigeria used to illustrate the story

In what is probably the most brazen display of impunity by powerful syndicates at the Lagos seaport, a total of 44 companies are discovered to have imported about 500 containers into the country using same Form M. Of the 44 companies (see list below) 30 brought in various consignments using Form M with number MF20170010026/ BA No. 21420170005250 which was cloned and recycled 29 times over a period of two years between 2017 and 2018 in a massive and sophisticated serial tariff fraud.

Five of the 44 companies namely Max Holding & Sons Ltd, Auto Creation E-Hub Ltd, Joneble Holding & Sons Ltd, Bossman Holding Ltd and Vintage Nigeria Ltd used another cloned Form M with number MF20170019026/ BA No. 21420170005260 for their shipping transactions while the Form M used by three companies, Garba Murtala Tafida, Ogwuni Rolland Edwin and Pedrona Ltd are so tampered with vital information scrubbed out that this newspaper is unable to read them.

Two companies with business names The Seacorp Nig. Ltd and Flex Nig. Ltd utilised for their transactions one Form M MF2017013894/BA No. 21450034.

The last four companies each quoted Form M numbers in their documents thus: Sonai Shipping Ltd MF20180052740; Cosmos &Sons Ltd MF20170010111; Duncan Maritime Ventures Nig. Ltd MF20170094928 and Emoko Real Properties Nig. Ltd MF20130010026. Curiously, all the four Form Ms have no batch numbers thus making it impossible to determine the name of the bank that issued the Form Ms in the first place and also making it difficult to track the source of funds used by the business owners in the transactions.

Two months ago, in September, SATELLITE TIMES blew the lid on a powerful “Port Cabal” that specialised in using clone Form M documents to perpetrate large scale fraud at the Lagos seaports. The report exposed how the Cabal imported millions of dollars’ worth of luxury vehicles, many of them armoured, into the country using just one Form M. The offensive Form M with number: MF 20170010026 was used in importing a total of 554 luxury vehicles that included one Rolls Royce, 84 Toyota Landcruiser, 41 Toyota Fortuner, 123 Toyota Prado, 46 Lexus 570/460, 140 Toyota Hilux, 32 Toyota Camry, 21 Toyota Coaster, 43 Toyota Hiace, 21 Mitsbushi Pajero and 2 Range Rover, most of them armoured and targeted at high-end market.

Cargo manifest

Cargo manifest

While the September report about 17 companies colluding to use one Form M had left ordinary Nigerians and anti-corruption crusaders in utter disbelief, the story pales into insignificance with the latest discovery of 44 companies pulling off an even bigger fraud without the Colonel Hameed Ali-led leadership of the Nigerian Customs Service being any wiser. Intriguingly, it was the same Form M MF 20170010026 used by the 17 companies to bring in 554 exotic cars that was also utilized by a new group of 27 companies to import more cargoes, bringing the number to 44 consignees.

Form M explained

Form M is the most important item in the documentation process put in place by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), to monitor goods imported into the country as well as to enable collection of import duties where applicable.

Any person intending to import physical goods into Nigeria must initiate the importation by processing a Form M through an authorised dealer (licensed bank). Alongside the Form M, a host of other documentation will be presented to the bank. Where approved, the Form M serves as authority to the bank to open letters of credit for foreign exchange transactions on behalf of the importer.

This form has a unique number which must be quoted/written on all the shipping documents; although there are exemptions such as Diplomatic cargos (of reasonable quantity), personal effects, goods shipped in by government agencies or goods shipped into Free Trade Zones in Nigeria such as the Calabar Free Trade Zone (CFTZ).

Form M is the first official document needed to initiate shipment to NigeriaThe life span of a Form M is 6 months (for general merchandise) and one year (for plant and machinery), after which an extension of 6 months (for general merchandise) and one year (for plant and machinery).

 

Cargo manifest

Cargo manifest

A Form M is usually issued for a particular supply contract (between the oversea manufacturer and the Nigerian importer) and allows for part shipments within the validity period. For large project such as stadium construction, a Bulk Form M can be issued, which allows continuous part shipments throughout the validity of the Form M.

Form M is a form of licence. Approval of a Form M depends, among other things, on the forex okayed for the importer by the CBN for a particular import. To obtain Form M, the importer must present his Tax Identification Number (TIN). In fact, the TIN is now key-username to log into the electronic platform to process this all-important document. Form M is not transferable from one importer to another. And a Form M approved for the import of a particular item cannot be used even by the same importer to bring in a different item.

An industry stakeholder (names withheld) gave “a rough estimate” of the values of the 500 containers imported by the 44 companies as “over N100 billion”. It will take the expertise of forensic financial investigators to arrive at the true value of the imports. However, SATELLITE TIMES was told that “because all the imports were luxury goods, they attract 20% duty of the true value, 50% levy and 5% VAT. Indeed, the cloning and manipulations of Form M and allied shipping documents are aimed at escaping payment of accurate levies and tariffs. The industry stakeholder added that the Federal government must have “lost nothing less than N9 billion to this batch alone of cloned Form M imports”.

Official reactions were sought by this newspaper at the headquarters of the Nigerian Customs Service in Abuja. Clearly-worded text messages sent to the mobile number of the Service PRO, Mr. Joe Attah, was not responded to at press time.

List of the 44 companies

1. Five Stax Group Ltd

2. Emy Cargo & Shipping Services

3. Volta MP Equipment Nig. Ltd

4. Vintage Nig. Ltd.

5. Suplus Nig. Ltd

6. Brasslet Nig. Ltd.

7. Sonnex Nig. Ltd.

8. Zako Bag Allied Nig. Ltd.

9. Kaslak Nig. Ltd.

10.Zeb Holding Ltd.

11.Cosmos & Sons Nig. Ltd.

12. Joneble Holding & Sons Nig. Ltd.

13. Amaju & Sons Nig. Ltd.

14. Zinktex Nig. Ltd.

15. Dabik Holding & Sons Nig. Ltd.

!6. Landhoast Ltd.

17. Ogwuni Rolland Edwin

18. Ruffo Nig. Ltd.

19. Marko Nig. Ltd.

20. Sengenmenge Nig. Ltd.

21. Offor and Sons Nig. Ltd.

22. Lext Vin Nig. Ltd.

23. Modul Oil and Gas Ltd

24. Ducan Maritime Ventures Nig. Ltd.

25. Carmen Ltd.

26. Garba Murtala Tafida

27. Auto Creation E-Hub Ltd.

28.  Emoko Real Properties Nig. Ltd.

29.  Osland Ltd.

30.  Brimax Still Nig. Ltd.

31. Akuabia Prince Afamefuna

32. Max Holding & Sons Ltd,

33.Auto Creation E-Hub Ltd,

34.Joneble Holding & Sons Ltd,

35.Bossman Holding Ltd

36. Vintage Nigeria Ltd

37. Garba Murtala Tafida,

38. Ogwuni Rolland Edwin and

39. Pedrona Ltd

40. The Seacorp Nig. Ltd

41. Flex Nig. Ltd

42. Sonai Shipping Ltd

43. Cosmos &Sons Ltd

44. Duncan Maritime Ventures Nig. Ltd

 

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