The Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma has emphasized the important roles played by the licensed customs agents in Nigeria even as he described the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) as one group government cannot afford to joke with.
Speaking at the National Executive Council (NEC)/ Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the association held in Owerri on Wednesday, Gov. Uzodinma reiterated that his knowledge of the important role the members of the association play in the economy was one of the reasons he embarked on a sanitization programme that would make their responsibilities in the import/export value chain more pronounced when he was the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Customs and Excise.
He noted that his committee was able to do that because few individuals who were cutting corners were bringing bad names to the profession adding that “we needed to identify those bad eggs and we needed to sanction them or at best remove them from polluting your well-deserved and well-earned image.”
The Governor further observed that the activities of the members of the association which he described as very important had created over 15,000 direct employment to Nigerians not including the indirect employment they had also created and all the people serving or doing business at the various points where they do their businesses -those in the catering business, those in car wash business and so many other value chains that the activities of their office had created.
He however assured them that the relationship he had with the association while in the senate would not stop noting that “the reason for the enactment and establishment of the pre-shipment Act was to regulate the activities of the import and export value chains and in so doing, appreciate the role you as agents of customs should play.
“Overtime, Nigeria customs saw you as enemies or opponents but I was able to make the point during my time that your business and your activities must go in pari-passu with that of the customs and excise. Nigeria customs must see you as partners in progress and work with you not seeing you as opponents.
“Your job is also linked to national security. If all security policies and programmes are sabotaged by you, it will not work. So, in the spirit of patriotism and national interest, I will urge you to close ranks with all agencies of government in the security sector and the business sector so that we will be able to protect our interest as a nation and unite Nigeria further, act as factors for unity, national integration and national cohesion. So, nobody should undermine you.”
While thanking them for their understanding in giving their consent under the pre-shipment Act for one per cent charge to be debited on all import FOB, the Governor however said, “I am aware that those monies have not been used according to your expectations but we are talking with government at relevant offices to begin to deploy those monies to make the ease of doing business in Nigeria under the import and export value chain more friendly.”
He therefore charged the leadership of the association to always identify those laws made by the Parliament that would make them prominent and make their businesses more beneficial and ensure that they were implemented.
“Two years ago, I had an engagement with your leadership when we were trying to identify the leakages in government revenues through the import and export value chains, I made it very clear to your leadership that if the pre-shipment Act is put in place and inspections are done from the ports of origin before getting to the port of destination, we don’t have to wait until a container loaded with firearms will get into Apapa port before government will wake up to its responsibility. If a clean bill of health is given to a container that is about to leave from Cyprus and the contents inspected, it means that the shipping company will take responsibility if anything goes wrong with the cargo.
“If the number of regulatory agencies at the seaports are eliminated or removed, you will do your businesses seamlessly in a manner that you will be prominent because there is no point you will go to seaports, you have imported an item, the cost of container from America to Nigeria probably is $3,000, now to clear it, you have to go for clearance from NDLEA to NAFDAC to Police and at the Police, you go to the DPO first, you go to Area Commander, to the Commissioner of Police and then to the AIG. As you finish going round, getting close to the gate, they will say there is an alert. And all these costs, of course, the implication is that you transfer the cost to the consumer. So, an item that should cost N5,000 ends up being sold for N15,000. So, we are going to support you so that we begin to do things right”, Governor Uzodinma assured.
He also invited members of the association to go through the instruments of their profession to enable them to know their rights, to know the roles expected of them and to advance the cause of doing business in Nigeria and by extension, extend the benefits derivable therefrom to not only the business community but to residents in Nigeria doing business.
Photo: The Executive Governor of Imo state, Senator Hope Uzodinma.
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