NAGAFF petitions Finance Minister over issues of customs examination, value assessment, others


The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has called on the Honourable Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeoshun to tackle the issues surrounding customs examination, value assessment, abuse of alert as a risk management tool and stoppage of released and exited goods from Customs control at the exit gates of the ports.

The National President of NAGAFF, Dr. Eugene Nweke who made this call in a letter he addressed to the Minister of Finance recently said the call became necessary as the abuse associated with these cargo clearance procedures engender and breeds corruption at the nation’s seaports.

According to him,” The most important and sensitive part of  Customs operations at the moment that breeds corruption are in areas of Customs examination, value assessment, abuse of alert as a risk management tool and stoppage of released and exited goods from Customs control, at the exit gates of the ports”.

Nweke further stated that another area his association would want the Honourable Minister to focus attention towards achieving result with the Nigeria Customs Service was the licensing regulation of the Service which he said was capable of encouraging fraudulent activities among the port operators who hide under the corporate entity to commit crimes and go unpunished.

“We have always maintained that the system whereby Customs licenses are given to corporate entities instead of individuals goes with a lot of risk as it allows individuals who perpetrate fraud in the release of goods to escape punishment, hiding under the veil of a corporate entity.

“It is now obvious that Sections 153, 154, 155 and 156 of the CEMA have become obsolete since they have exposed the industry to risk of fraud perpetrated by licensed corporate bodies.  It is already alleged in the public court that foreigners and serving Customs officers may own 80% of licenses issued by the Customs.  It becomes more risky to revenue function of the Service when such licenses are being operated within the Command where such an officer is serving”, he said.

He therefore called on the Board and the new management team to go into strategic partnership with the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) which he opined had been statutorily mandated to train and accredit individual practitioners as professional freight forwarding agents.

He continued,” We do expect that the Honourable Minister of Finance shall take a critical study of Sections 4, 5, and 6 of CEMA, i.e. the powers of the Board to make regulations in relation to Customs matters.  The ongoing arbitrary and inappropriate seizures of trade goods need to stop because the 2006 Import and Export Guidelines have whittled down the inherent punishment under Sections 46, 47, 161 and 164 of CEMA in favour of traded goods for additional duty.

“It is to our knowledge that a 25% imposed penalty is usually applied against such imports, which are viewed as minor trade offenses.  It is surprising the spate of seizures being made at the Federal Operations Units over matters that even proper Customs officers played a leading role against the law. Customs examined goods and released, customs seize the same examined and released trade goods, worked upon and released by a proper customs officer, due to improper customs examination. This is very unprofessional and systemic in corruption act. We need to change our values and professional ethics for a greater Nigeria in line with the change mantra.

“The economy of Nigeria is not too good, and we shall expect a responsible Government to encourage trade instead of killing it even at a point Government revenue is at stake due to auction sales”.

The NAGAFF boss on behalf of the founder of NAGAFF, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam however congratulated the Minister of Finance and the Comptroller-General of Customs (CGC) on the historic milestone of constituting a new management team of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) with the decoration of members of the team comprising 6 Deputy Comptrollers-General (DCGs) and 8 Assistant Comptrollers-General (ACGs) on Wednesday the 6th of January 2016.

Nweke averred that with the inauguration of the new management team, stakeholders were fully convinced that the task of fulfilling the mandate of the CGC, Rtd Col. Hameed Ali would go into full gear in line with the objective of the wishes of the Nigerian people, the constitution and the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Alhaji Muhammadu Buhari GCFR.

“It is to our knowledge that there was an operational vacuum in the Nigeria Customs Service functions since the 17th of August 2015 when the former CGC retired and the appointment of the new Comptroller General of Customs to date.  It is our opinion that the lapses noticed within the period under review may be consequences of the change of leadership, the time frame to understudy the workings and operations of the Customs and of course the uncertainty on the part of the unconfirmed senior management officers in relation to their job schedules.  The good news is that they have been confirmed as being substantive and the CGC may have moved into his official residence to settle down for the challenges ahead.

“A look at the antecedents of the members of the new management team reveals that they are men and women of desirable attitude to work that have gone through the mill and will no doubt meet the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians for a World- class Customs.

“We, as critical stakeholders and major players in the operations of customs responsibilities, have been worried over the seeming inactive performance in Customs operations within the period under review.  We are greatly worried, and we expect the Customs Board under your leadership to look into the areas of curbing corruption, ensuring transparency, compliance and trade facilitation in Customs operations”, he said.

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