The Federal Government’s quest to contain the coronavirus pandemic through a 14–day lockdown of Lagos, Ogun State and Abuja appears to be taking its toll on the nation’s revenue as banks’ closure continue to hamper ports operations.
Expressing his displeasure at the non operation of banks, Dr. Ola Olugbese, Chairman, Ogbese Marine Services Limited, a licensed Customs agent, stated that the federal government may have lost not less than N20 billion in the last seven days due to non operation of the banks in the ports.
“Due to the lockdown caused by Covid-19 pandemic, banks were closed. Government needs revenue. That is why Customs was mandated to work as the ports remain open. Unfortunately, government forgot that Customs work hand in hand with banks. Customs does not accept cash from importers or agents except bank draft. If banks are not working, how can government generate revenue?”, he asked.
Olugbese called on the federal government to mandate banks to offer at least skeletal services so as ease the difficulty being encountered by importers and agents.
According to Olugbese, importers and agents are stranded, just as government is losing billions of Naira as a result of non operation of banks. “No new Form M can be opened. Form M is part of the documents needed to import goods into the country. It is generated from the banks. Only those who paid before the lockdown are the ones taking possession of their goods. Every other person is stuck. Banks should be allowed to operate”, he said. He also urged the government not to prolong the lockdown as been speculated. “If the lockdown is prolonged, the maritime sector will be the worst hit.
The government revenue will be diminished drastically. Lockdown has affected negatively operations in the ports. We all know that apart from oil, Customs is the second revenue earner for government. We urge the government to mandate the banks to operate so as to ease the difficulty being experienced by importers and agents at the ports,” he added.