Customs blames multiplicity of checkpoints, units on lack of compliance

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The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has blamed the multiplicity of Customs checkpoints and units on the inability of the importers and their agents to comply with import guidelines and trade procedures.

The Coordinator of Zone A, ACG Katherine Ekekezie who stated this while playing host to the leadership of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) who paid her a courtesy visit in her office in Lagos last Friday said that the checkpoints were created to enforce compliance among customs officers, importers and agents.

According to her,” These things were set up because people are not complying. There must be compliance otherwise if government one day wants to recover its money, government has ways of recovering its money and the government has very long arm. You are professionals so you have to act like one. It is because there is no compliance among us customs, the agents and the importers. To tell you the truth, I have been in the field for a long time, I have been a releasing officer, I know what happens and then right here in this room, I have been sent to do certain jobs and I know what we discovered but I am telling you there is no infraction that is not aided by an insider and we all have stop.

“You need to know, each time we have management meeting, how many officers are dismissed. In fact, I told the CGC that we need to be publishing these things. The last meeting I held with the Controllers right in this room, I said look, we are going to publish so that every time you are having your parade, you will carry that list and you will read the ones as it concerns your area and you read what they did, that way, maybe some people will start changing but if they don’t change, the CGC will say that he will always pray that the good ones will continue being good and the bad ones, if they refuse to repent, that they will commit the ones that will bring them out so that he will catch them, dismiss them and prosecute them.

“The one he has not done is prosecute and jail but as for dismissal, he does that every time we went for management meeting, honestly and it’s scary and I used to say, now these officers are punished, where are their accomplices? They are some of your members, the accomplices are some importers that are not compliant, they are the shipping companies and the terminal operators after all a terminal operator knows that these containers, their seals are not cut, still they loaded them and they took them out. You see what I am saying, there is this ripple effect and then there is a chain of people who commit or who connive”.

On the activities of the Customs Strike Force that is fast becoming a threat to trade facilitation, the ACG said that Strike Force from its name was supposed to strike and go away and not to be stationed at a particular location.

“You have information, then you strike and not going to station at almost the gate of any seaport and opening all the containers. The CGC frowns at this and I am taking this back to him and back to the management.  The Strike Force like I said is customs Police, they are supposed to act on information, they are not supposed to have a checkpoint but they have what we call observation point. They rove; they are not supposed to be in one place”, she said.

Earlier in his speech, the National President of ANLCA, Chief Tony Iju Nwabunike demanded a clear terms of reference for the operatives of the Customs Strike Force with proper identification to forestall impersonation.

Represented by the National Vice President of the association, Dr. Kayode Farinto, Nwabunike added that it was becoming very worrisome as exited cargoes were recalled for duty payment by virtually all customs units in contravention of best practices according to the World Customs Organization (WCO) guidelines on trade facilitation.

“ANLCA frowns at this and advice that PCA should be strengthened to discharge their functions”, he said.

He continued,” Ekiti and Ondo axis of Federal Operations Unit (FOU) appraising additional duties on vehicles arbitrarily via post modification of exited declaration. This practice is not only illegal, it negates Time Release Study (TRS). Ekiti/Ondo axis should be advised to booster their revenue drive through extant legal customs procedures rather than this perceived illegality.

“Multiple customs units in the airport and seaport performing examination and similar duties thereby affecting trade facilitation and increasing cost of clearance. ANLCA requests NCS to have coordinating schedule for examination in line with ease of doing business initiative from the presidency to resolve this logjam coupled with urgent need for scanning machines to stem the continuing resort to physical examination of cargoes in our ports in line with recently released survey by Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation project in Nigeria dated 22nd January, 2019.

“Re-examination of cargoes at the final exit gate particularly in Tincan Island port exit gate. Also FOU and Strike Force positioning themselves 200 meters outside ports exit gate. ANLCA request a coordination and information sharing between FOU and other customs units in line with Presidential Executive Order on Ease of Doing Business initiative”.

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