Following calls in some quarters lately that the Nigeria Customs Service be granted partial autonomy to enable them function effectively, the President, Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, Dr. Frank Ukor has kicked against such call describing it as unprecedented.
Ukor who was speaking in an interview with Primetime Reporters in his office in Lagos wondered what informed the position of the proponents of such idea demanding further explanation to that effect so as to give a clearer picture to their position.
He argued that should the proponents of this idea base their argument on the mere fact that the Service collects revenue for the government, they should also understand that the Service was not the only revenue generating agency of the government contending that should that gesture be granted to the Service, it should also be extended to other revenue generating agencies as well.
According to him,” what do they mean by partial autonomy? That they don’t report to the Ministry of Finance? Or that don’t report to the Presidency? Because if you ask me, if customs want to be autonomous, then the Federal inland Revenue Service should be autonomous too and other government agencies that collect revenue on behalf of the Federal government should be autonomous too so that they should collect revenue and whatever they remit to the government, the government takes”.
“But is it the intention of the founding fathers before enacting that CEMA? Why would the customs want to be autonomous? Has it happened anywhere? I want to see an example of one particular country in the world where the customs, the revenue agency of the government is autonomous. You know, the greater part of the money that comes to the government comes through the oil, maybe, NNPC should seek for autonomy too so that they won’t report to anybody, whatever they declared, the government takes”.
“So let nobody talk about the autonomy for the customs, let the status remain, that is the best. There should be control because if there is no control, then, there will be two governments in this country”.
On the recent court ruling which declared that the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) was a government regulatory agency, Dr. Ukor observed that it had been a common knowledge to them that CRFFN was established by an Act of the Parliament to be a regulatory body for all the Freight Forwarding practitioners in the maritime industry.
He said that by that Act, CRFFN became an agency of the government just like the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) and the Nigerian Medical and Dental Association of Nigeria adding that it was only a handful of people who wanted to score political points that embarked on the court processes to contest the obvious.
“Come to think of it, they are under the control of the Minister of Transport. If it is a private agency as being misconstrued by some of us, they won’t be reporting to any Minister, they won’t have any business taking funds from the government. They will depend on whatever funds the associations give them’.
“But the government had given them a mandate to go and register everybody that practice freight forwarding. So, it is an agency of the government, we know that”, he said.
On the attempt to appeal the ruling of the Federal High court, the AREFFN boss stated that they had the right to appeal the ruling as enshrined in the constitution of the land saying that they were only going on a wild goose chase as they were bound to fail as well as lose their money if they appeal the ruling.