Customs CG misinterpreted on ACFTA, says agency

  • Ali

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has disowned as “gross misrepresentation” the claim that its Comptroller-General, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd), is against the implementation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement and the Africa Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA).

Instead, Ali had during the said presentation at the public hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance supported “increased local production for the nation to benefit from the forthcoming ACFTA,” a statement from the National Public Relations Officer, Joseph Attah, read.

Ali, while explaining the implications of ACFTA on revenue, had stated that all imports from member-countries would be duty-free so long as they are products of those countries, hence Nigeria must encourage local production and excise duty rather than import duty, which will drastically drop soon.

“I would rather collect excise duty than import duty, because for every import, you are taking money out,” he told the committee.

The agency regretted reactions linking the public hearing to “issues of scanners, partial border closure, and ending with almost recommending single window system as a viable means of growing customs revenue collection,” stating that they show
“a total loss of the understanding of CGC’s presentation.

“He obviously does not know that the amended Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) has not been passed into law and seems not aware that NCS is not the procuring agent for new scanners, hence cannot be linked to any amount he quoted in relation to scanners.

“It is almost laughable to appear to recommend a bit of ICT to an organisation whose processes are mostly automated and was informing the Senate Committee about the readiness of the service to commence end to end e-Customs.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the CGC and indeed NCS is not against the implementation of any protocol that Nigeria is signatory to. NCS’ role is to implement and provide input that might help policy formation in the interest of Nigerians.”

Maritime lawyer, Emeka Akabogu, had flayed Ali’s advice against the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement and ACFTA, stating that the CGC’s theory was based on his fears that if the trade facilitation agreement was implemented to ease current challenges over import and export of goods, customs revenue would drop.

“This may explain why the Nigeria Customs Service seems to have abandoned any pretences it used to have towards trade facilitation. Nigeria used to have scanners for inspection of imports, but the Customs took them over from private operators and decommissioned them, now relying on 100 per cent manual inspection of all imports.

“Advance rulings, post-clearance audits and single window systems are not in operation, despite billions spent. A new Customs and Excise Management Act was even drafted and passed by the National Assembly to make many progressive measures of the TFA legally binding, but it was never signed into law.

“Nigerian borders have been closed to goods for the past one year, resulting in many bankruptcies and commercial debts. The foundation for this de facto policy of border brigandage is founded on ignorance. 90 per cent of local manufacturing is dependent on import of machinery and raw materials.

“Border closure and customs restrictions are a dagger in the heart of jobs, production and exports from manufacturing. With an efficient monitoring mechanism through single window systems, customs earnings will multiply tenfold, and so will efficiency.”

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