Customs replies Akabogu, says NCS not against WCO Trade Facilitation Agreement, AfCFTA


The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has said that contrary to the misrepresentation in the public domain, the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd.) and indeed the Service is not against the implementation of any protocol that Nigeria is a signatory.

This is even as it stated that its role was to implement and provide input that might help policy formation in the interest of Nigerians.

The Public Relations Officer of the NCS, Mr. Joseph Attah who made the clarification in a statement in Abuja on Monday was reacting to what he termed “a gross misinterpretation of the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd.) on his presentation at the public hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance.

Maritime Lawyer, Mr. Emeka Akabogu had in a write up that went viral on the social media on Sunday alleged that the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service advised against implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement in a presentation before the Nigerian Senate last week on grounds that it would negatively impact revenue generation.

According to Akabogu, “Col. Hameed Ali’s theory is that if the Trade Facilitation Agreement is implemented to ease current challenges being faced in import and export of goods, customs revenue will drop, so better not to implement the reforms.”

He added that this may explain why the Nigerian Customs Service seemed to have abandoned any pretenses it used to have towards trade facilitation even as he recalled that 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% 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 last one year, resulting in many bankruptcies and commercial debts.

“Yet the foundation for this de facto policy of border brigandage is founded on ignorance. 90% of local manufacturing is dependent on imports 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. I suspect the customs officials know all these – they are very enlightened and play key roles at the World Customs Organisation.

“But for them, it pays to conduct 100% manual inspection, to raise arbitrary debit notes, to interface physically with importers and clearing agents. It pays to appear ignorant”, he further said.

Reacting, the NCS spokesman noted that the write up, unfortunately, misrepresented the CGC’s position on Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement erroneously misinforming the public that the CGC was against the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement/Facilitation, because it would affect revenue collection.

He maintained that, the CGC’s position, on the contrary, was in support of increased local production for the nation to benefit from the forthcoming ACFTA adding that the CGC explained the implications of ACFTA on revenue, “stating that all imports from member countries will be duty free hence the nation must encourage local production and Excise duty rather than Import duty which will drastically drop soon.”

Attah quoted the CGC as saying that “I would rather collect Excise duty than Import duty, because for every import, you are taking money out”.

He imagined that as clear and emphatic as the CGC was at the public hearing on preference for excise over import, it was hard to understand the reason(s) for this twist and dangerous misrepresentation.

“The author’s attempt to link CG’s comments at 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 shows 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 to be 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 organization 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 a signatory. NCS role is to implement and provide input that might help policy formation in the interest of Nigerians”, he declared.

Attah, A Deputy Comptroller of Customs pointed out that the Service strongly believed that Nigerians had a right to know the implications of AfCFTA and actions that must be taken to benefit from it and not becoming a dumping ground for other countries’ goods noting that “twisting and giving it a different narrative relating to Import duty is not only dangerous but mischievous misrepresentation that does the nation no good.”

“NCS therefore call on Nigerians to discountenance that misleading piece and focus on what we must do to benefit from ACFTA”, he summarized.

Photo: Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Mr. Joseph Attah.

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