The Founder, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam has said that the association is yet to make an official statement on the appointment of Bashir Adewale Adeniyi as the Acting Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Aniebonam who stated this in a chat with Primetime Reporters in Lagos recently said that any person that had spoken on Adeniyi’s appointment from the association did so on his own as according to him, NAGAFF had not said anything as far as the appointment was concerned.
His words, “I am not in position to say something now because the policy group of NAGAFF has not actually sat to give direction. Any person that is speaking is speaking on his own. NAGAFF has not said anything as far as the appointment is concerned. We will make a clear statement in that regard.”
He, however, observed that the new CG of Customs had made some very clear statement adding that he was impressed with the Customs boss resolve to bring stakeholders together and work with them in the overall interest of the nation.
“I think that aspect is quite honourable in the sense that, probably, I understand that he has Masters in Communication Management because one of the major problems in Nigeria is lack of communication. So, if you are a leader and you have good communication skills, you won’t have problem, if you don’t, people are bound to misunderstand you.
“So, I am sure the new CG is settling down getting briefs from all quarters and then, very soon he will go out and meet with stakeholders. But customs is very strategic to the economy of the nation. If this country wants to recover quickly as far as revenue is concerned, it must get customs right because its dragnet is wide as far as revenue is concerned”, he said.
Speaking on the proposed merger of the Service with the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA by the federal government, he observed that although government was in a better position to take informed decisions, customs should be allowed to stand on its own as an independent agency of government.
“How do you merge them when the new Customs Act was just signed into law? If you want to handle customs matter, you don’t dabble into it because it is complicated. The inherent powers in customs is much as far as customs law is concerned. If you bring customs and NIMASA together, you will discover that the customs law is extant. The way customs view revenue matters is different from any other agency and that is why if you don’t invite them at the point that you are making any fiscal policy decision, you will be making a great mistake.
“For instance, the suspended CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, look at the blunder that the man made that place . How can you remove 41 items from import list and of course, your action does not present those items as banned and then look at Section 27 and 28 of customs law, the provision to handle improper documentation in relation to import and export and that is what has messed up the customs system such that today, the issues of concealment, false declaration and all that.
“What is saving this country now as far as revenue is concerned is the Destination Inspection regime which is simply to say, customs examination and indeed, Pre Arrival Assessment, abinitio, from its origin and concept is sacrosanct but customs saw that it was not working and came back to make it advisory because this is a matter of trade”, he further stated.
On the gains of the new Nigeria Customs Service Act 2023, Dr. Aniebonam pointed out that the most important gain of the new Act was the one that made it mandatory for appointment of a career customs officer as the Comptroller General of Customs.
“You have fulfilled the dream of the men and officers of the Service, that one can rise to become anything in customs. That is liberation, I am sure customs is very happy with that and I am sure those who come to transact business with customs is okay because it is so disheartening to appoint a Veterinary Doctor Mohammed, Ango Abdullahi and now Col. Ali.
“So, that is a good news. So, the new Customs Act has given an opening because it is better to discuss with somebody who understands what you are talking than discussing with somebody who doesn’t understand what you are talking. Customs matter is highly technical, if you don’t know it, you don’t know it and that is why you have to do revenue course as an officer of the service and even as an agent, you have to undergo formal training to do so and indeed, this is where the Council comes in because the CRFFN is the breeding ground to be able to handle freight forwarders.
“One of the greatest problems that the customs is having today is that when they speak their language, these freight forwarders do not understand and they can’t reply because they are not on the same page and so, most of them don’t know that most of what they do are offence”, he added.
Photo: Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, founder of NAGAFF.
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