… Continued from part 1
Being a paper presented by the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Mr. Bashir Adewale Adeniyi during the Silver Jubilee Celebration of the League of Maritime Editors In Lagos on December 7, 2023 with the theme: Harnessing Nigeria’s Potential In Marine & Blue Economy/The New Customs Act And Its Implication On Trade.
The Comptroller General of Customs was represented at the event by the Customs Area Controller, Tincan Island Port Command, Comptroller Dera Nnadi mni.
What are the implications of the new customs Act on Marine and Blue Economy and by extension, trade? The new customs Act introduces simplified and transparent customs procedures for the import and export of marine resources. These include law materials, manufactured consumable goods, fisheries products, aquaculture supplies, equipment in offshore activities and marine tourism which Dr. Okorefe emphasized.
Of course, some of the maritime editors here will bear me witness, when they visited me in Seme, when I was the Seme Area Controller, I had to take you on a tour of Benin Republic where we went to see their port side. Recall that one of the things they did was to build a very big monument around their port that has become a tourist attraction and the walls of their port was painted with artworks including artworks painted by Nigerian artists. Their port was streamlined, the port environment was decorated with flowers. All of you saw it, I deliberately took you there to draw your attention to what we can do with our own ports.And then, what did you see? The day we went there, you saw tourists taking pictures around the port area. Who will want to take pictures around our port area except if it is not to denigrate Nigeria.
So, the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy is supposed to act fast and turn our shorelines, which the port represents, into a tourist attraction.
This new law encourages free movement of goods within the maritime sector and in the international community. It also provides tariff incentives for sustainable practices.
In alignment with the global trade is sustainable development, the customs Act introduces tariff incentives for businesses engaging in environmentally friendly practices within the blue economy. This encourages adoption of sustainable fishing methods, responsible aquaculture and friendly shipping practices which is the bane of international trade.
Technological integration for enhanced surveillance. The Act emphasizes the integration of advanced technologies such as satellite tracking and data analytics that enhances surveillance and monitoring of maritime activities. Of course, the present Comptroller General, when he was the Deputy Comptroller General in charge of Strategic Research and Policy, was promoting data analytics and luckily, he became the Comptroller General, so, he is emphasizing that this should be the new face of customs where we use technology to address issues of international trade particularly issues of border management. And it is part of the things that are going to form the theme of the Nigeria Customs Service Comptroller General of Customs conference coming up next week.
Like every other thing in the world, there are challenges when it comes to the opportunities in the new Act. While the Customs Act 2023 projects a positive trajectory for Nigeria’s Marine and Blue Economy as well as trade, there are challenges that need to be addressed. This includes infrastructural limitations, capacity building for customs personnel and other stakeholders in the maritime industry, ensuring effective implementation of the Act. This is very important. There’s an aspect of that Act that says that for those of us who are freight forwarders here, and for you too, the maritime editors, be ready for this.
There’s an aspect of that Act that says that if there’s a deliberate infraction committed by an importer or a freight forwarder, debit note will be issued to you to recover revenue. But that’s not enough, when debit note is issued to you, you stand to pay penalty. But that’s not enough, you also stand to be jailed for six months for deliberately committing an infraction.
So, for those of you that Comptroller Ejibunu is going to stop, be very careful. He can ask you to pay for the infraction, he can ask you to pay penalty, and he will also jail you. It’s also a new aspect. Before, you only pay penalty but now, they have added that you can be jailed. If you cannot prove that what you have done was not deliberate.
We need investment in port infrastructure. The Tincan port, for instance, where I operate from, was built in 1977 and since then, the Customs building there has remained as it is. I have written a letter to the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority who graciously sent someone to come and take a look at that building. For an industry where everyday, talking about Tincan now, I generate a minimum of N3.3 billion, I don’t think that building should be where we are operating from. That’s the least I can collect in a day on an average and look at the building where I am operating from (here, I speak as Dera Nnadi).
Investment in port infrastructure: Both infrastructure and storage facilities are essential to support the growth of trade and by extension the Marine and Blue Economy. The government should collaborate with the private sector to ensure the development of world class facilities that meet international standard and I call on freight forwarders, when you make money from the maritime industry, stop taking the money outside the maritime industry to invest in hotels, schools, real estate. Bring the money back into the maritime industry and invest in infrastructure and other activities that will further enhance the maritime industry. We should stop pillaging the industry.
We appreciate those who have invested in this mission, we expect that the Honourable Minister of Marine and Blue Economy should offer platforms for such people to further increase their investment.
Continuous training programme for Customs officers and stakeholders involved in maritime trade are crucial for effective implementation of this Act. This will enhance the understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities within the blue economy. We also expect to engage between the private people and the government through the Public Private partnership which is instrumental in maximizing the opportunities in supply chain. This involves collaboration in areas such as management of trade, develop some sustainable shipping practices, of course, training. The maritime media, the League of Maritime Editors should be offered opportunities to come and be part of that knowledge. If the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy can sponsor you people, I will be very grateful.
Nigeria Marine and Blue Economy is a valuable asset that when harnessed effectively, can contribute significantly to the nation’s economic growth.
Nigeria Customs Act 2023 provides a framework for fostering a conducive environment for trade within the maritime sector by addressing challenges and recognizing opportunities and fostering collaboration between the public and private sectors . Nigeria can unlock the full potentials of this Marine and Blue Economy in years to come and we are very ready as Nigeria Customs Service to partner with the rest of the society achieve this.
Yes, there is an increase in the penalty under the new Customs Act. Like I said, in the past, if there’s an infraction and debit note is supposed to be raised for you; Debit note is for recovery of short payment made by the declarant. After asking you to pay for what you did not declare, we charge you a flat rate, in the past, of N600. That was too small and that was because when that law was made in 1955, cargo throughput in Nigeria was so small and the value of money was so high.
So, over the years, nobody amended that law until recently when customs got approval to increase it to 25 percent of the value of the duty that you are already supposed to pay.
However, under the new customs Act, it has been further enhanced to include the fact that you will pay 25 percent penalty, you will pay the shortchanged value. If you are supposed to pay N10,000 and you paid N4,000, you will pay the N6,000 and you will pay 25 percent of N10,000 which you were supposed to pay abinitio. And it doesn’t stop at that this time around, you will now pay another penalty of N2,000,000 flat rate and then, you also risk going to jail for six months.
So, the new law now is that you pay what you are supposed to pay, the shortchanged one, you must pay it. Number two, you pay 25 percent of the real thing you would have paid before, you now pay it as punishment, then you also get punished again by paying extra N2,000,000 flat rate. So, it does not matter now if you short payed N200, your punishment is you pay 25 percent of the original money and another N2,000,000.
Imagine paying N2,000,000 for short paying N200 and you also risk going to jail if you cannot prove that that short payment was not deliberate.
Photo: Comptroller General of Customs, Mr. Bashir Adewale Adeniyi.
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