A chieftain of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Sir Tony Anakebe has attributed the recent upsurge in the importation of contraband and smuggling into the country to economic hardship faced by Nigerians as well as lack of policy direction on the part of the federal government.
Recall that the Nigeria Customs Service has reported in recent time massive seizures of contraband ranging from hard drugs, pharmaceutical products, clothings, rice among others, a development which has assumed a worrying dimension in the minds of concerned Nigerians.
Speaking on the development in an interview with our correspondent in Lagos last week, Anakebe noted that since this government came in, there has been a lot of ups and downs in the lives of Nigerians adding that an average Nigerian was so desperate now not only in the business circle even in the political circle and in every aspect of business in this country as people were finding life so hard.
According to him, “What caused this is the policy; there is no direction in the economic policy of this nation. To be honest with you, I believe that all these seizures are not up to 50% of what is smuggled into this nation both through the seaports and the border stations because sometimes, our officers compromise. So, if NDLEA can record massive seizures in the last four to five months, then, you can imagine what is happening in the importation circle. If you compare the two, you can see the volume of contraband in this country.
“We are lucky that the land borders are closed and I believe it has not been fully opened up till now, if the land borders are fully open, you could imagine the scenario.”
He, however, posited that there should be a lot of rejuvenation in the nation’s economic policy so that the young ones growing up would see the future and plan to live with it as according to him, banning everything was not the way to go because economically, everybody wants to survive.
“The Nigeria Customs Service, I believe is making a lot of efforts in making these seizures but I told you that the worst of it is that there is no economic direction from the government because I remember when the former Minister of Finance was there, if you plan that you are going to bring in five or ten containers within a period of one year, you have programmed what you can make out of the ten containers within the year and you plan your life but there is nothing like that now because even if you declare one hundred percent of your goods, there is no way you cannot be questioned by the customs with its attendant delays occasioned by the traffic at the ports.
“Yes, contrabands are flowing in, I think the customs officials are trying but they need to surpass the average percentage that they are now”, he said.
On why importation of contraband is on the rise even with the close or partial reopening of the nation’s borders, Anakebe who is the Managing Director of Gold-Link Investment Limited said, “Have we asked ourselves how the proliferation of arms is happening up till today in this nation? All this small arms that we see everywhere in the country that the kidnappers, the bandits and others are using, have we asked ourselves how they come into this nation? Even the foreign herders that the president admitted that those causing problems in the country are foreigners, how do they come into the nation? Are we serious with our policing? The Immigration Department, what are they doing? Even the customs officers, whether the border is closed or not, I still believe some of them have compromised in many ways.
“So, what we are saying is let there be a patriotic Nigerian like Buba Marwa who since he picked up the leadership of the NDLEA, one could see the upswing in the activities of the NDLEA in the last four months. So, we will need people that can plan and give direction and forget about ethnicity in this nation. That is what Nigeria needs, we need seasoned administrators.”
On what should be the fate of the contrabands and other seized items in a way that the Nigerian economy would not suffer loss, he said, “I have been an advocate of 50% or 100% payment of duty as punishment for any seized good or container. I have been making calls in this regard in the past decade because most of these seized goods, sometimes, we don’t know how they ended, sometimes, they tell us they were auctioned and often times, auctioned below the exact amount as one can pay N500,000 to N1,000,000 for one by forty feet container in the name of auction and the person will now go with the goods when the person that brought in the good is ready to pay more than that in order to pick up the good in an attempt to at least recover his capital.
“But you know our system, they will always tell you that it is government policy, that they will go court and get court order to condemn them and before you know it, either it ends up in one person’s warehouse or it ends up at the backyard of a senior government officer. But, if implemented, it will help the economy to grow because if you bring in tokunbo fabric, for instance, and you know that it is contraband and customs was able to intercept it, and inside that container, you are supposed to pay a duty of N4 million, if government requires you to pay N10.5 million or N11 million in order to pick up the same goods and you are able to pay it, maybe, you won’t go back to it. It will still be to the economic advantage of this nation.”
Asked if it will not embolden the importer to import more, he said, “If you pay N11 million and pick up those goods, where will you get the money again to go and import? If you are importing two or three containers before, it will now tell on your business. The sense behind it is that owner of the container is trying by all means to see if he can at least lay hand on half of that money. That is the essence but if you auction that container at N1.5 million or N2 million, both the government and the individual will lose.”
Photo: ANLCA Chieftain and Managing Director, Gold-Link Investment Limited, Sir Tony Anakebe.
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