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.
It is significant that the League chose an area of Nigeria Customs Service as a topic for discussion during this anniversary. The choice of your topics “Harnessing Nigeria’s Potential In Marine and Blue Economy/The New Customs Act 2023 And Its Implication On Trade”, connects with the current realities and dynamism of the Nigerian economy.
As we are all aware, Nigeria Customs Service is synonymous with trade and management of trade has strong correlation with the development of any nation. Customs role has gone beyond revenue collection to include management of trade, cross-border security and environmental protection. These roles is now enhanced by the opportunity offered by the nation’s rebuilding efforts towards maximizing the opportunities in the marine and blue economy which the Nigeria Customs Service has promoted through its various reforms Yes, over the years through our various reforms, we have been encouraging opportunities in this sector.
One of such reforms is the review of the Service’s legal framework in line with the current realities of international trade. Nigeria with its vast coastlines cannot be along the Gulf of Guinea strategically positioned to harness the untapped potentials of this marine and blue economy, the recent enactment of the Customs Act 2023 brings with it renewed focus on trade facilitation particularly in the maritime sector.
This paper explores the significance of Nigeria’s marine and blue economy and addresses the implications of the new customs Act on trade. Nigerian coastlines stretching over 850 kilometers presents an invaluable assets for the development of the marine and blue economy and of course, the international trade. The country’s rich maritime resources include fisheries, aquaculture, shipping, offshore oil and gas exploration.
However, this sector haven’t been fully optimized, there is immense potentials for growth and trade facilitation as the emphasis has always been on import and export of finished Products and raw materials whereas other considerations of the economy which also borders on trade are not given the needed attention.
The blue economy encompasses a wide range of economic activities deposited in oceans, seas, coastal areas. It’s not only crucial for sustaining the marine life, it also for the economic development of Nigeria. Nigeria blue economy holds the key to job creation, food security, renewable energy, foreign exchange earnings. The effectiveness in harnessing of these resources requires a comprehensive approach, integrating sustainable practice with technological advancement for which the reforms in the Nigeria Customs Service advances.
The Customs and Excise Management Act which is an enabling law that set up Customs and Excise was enacted as an Act of 1955 of the defunct Colonial Parliament in 1958. It was called the CEMA No. 55 of 1958 which became enforceable in April 1959. The introduction of the new Nigeria Customs Service Act 2023 which was signed into law by the outgone President, Muhammadu Buhari GCFR in April 2023 became pertinent as the CEMA which is the old law became obsolete and not in tune with international trade hence there was the need to introduce the new Act which provides updated frameworks, aligns itself with the contemporary trade practices and enhances the efficiencies of the Nigeria Customs Service.
The Nigeria Customs Service Act addresses emerging challenges in international trade ensuring better enforcement, regulations and compliance. Some of the innovations contained in the new Act are as follows: Sections 78 to 82, for instance, talks about origin of goods, rules of origin and evidence of origin. This Act and this particular Section is very important considering the fact that Nigeria will soon be part of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement for which we are supposed to protect the nation’s industries and avoid dumping.
Section 109 of this Act which is also another new innovation talks about Customs certification authority as an economic operators. Of course, we all know that one of the bane of the nation’s port industry is the issue in delays in transacting international business. Just like Dr. Okorefe said, if we don’t simplify our processes, we lose business to other ports within the sub region and this has been one of our bane that made a small country like Togo with a population of about 17 million people being a hub of trade in the maritime sector of the West and Central Africa. So, it becomes very important that under this law, we simplify our processes and we expect that our partners, the freight forwarders and other operators in the maritime industry will also get in too with us to maximize this potential.
Sections 134 and 141 talks about special economic zones. Again, this is a new innovation. As you are aware, the Marine and Blue Economy Ministry through the Nigerian Ports Authority had been licensing people in partnership with the Nigeria Customs Service for inland container operators. We have even had the opportunity of creating seven more export terminals across the country. These sections cover activities in these areas. We also congratulate Nigeria for building one of the newest ports within the sub region, the Lekki free zone. Again, this particular aspect covers it.
Sections 162 to 167 talks about travellers and duty free shops. These are areas that when we travel abroad, people use them to collect tax from us to encourage trade and tourism just like Dr. Okorefe said. We also believe that with our recognition and putting it into law, our duty free shops and travellers opportunities will also maximize the gains inherent in this as it’s done internationally across other countries.
One other aspect that I will put here is Section 168 which talks about protection of intellectual property rights. As journalists here, most of you publish works, you publish books, some of these books are copied by some of us, we quote them, nobody gives you the credit or gives you your right for that. Nigerian music is one of the greatest export that we have in this country. Our music is exported, our Nollywood films are exported out of the country, people stream these films, music all over the world, credit is not given to Nigeria. Through this intellectual property rights Act, they are properly harnessed to protect you, protect the rest of the Industry.
There are also manufactured goods that people copy. I recall that this particular intellectual property right I worked closely with the present ACG in charge of Strategic Research and Policy, ACG Ibrahim Alfa. Both of us developed this aspect and I am happy that the Nigeria Customs Service decided to include it into the Nigeria Customs Service Act. Why did we do that? We found out that some of the products from Nigeria are faked and sold abroad. I recall a particular year, we went for a workshop in Kenya and we saw Gongoni insecticide being sold in Kenya and when we contacted Gongoni, Gongoni said he was not the producer, that he doesn’t send his products to Kenya.
What happened? Somebody in China was manufacturing Gongoni products and was exporting them to Kenya. So, we had to protect Gongoni and Gongoni actually sponsored a trip to Kenya to address that issue and we brought it to the attention of the Kenya Customs authority and they took action and stopped that. That shows you the potentials in this new law. We have also had the opportunity of protecting some of our customers. I know we work with HP, we work with Addidas, we work with other pharmaceutical companies that let us know when their products are being faked here in Nigeria. This is one area that many people don’t even know that the Nigeria Customs Service is participating in.
We have Sections 193 to 197 – Manufacture of carbonated drinks. All of us are aware of the uproar that visited, I think one of you presented a workshop here, the Publisher of MMS Plus, Kingsley Anaroke. I recall also when they talk about raising tax on carbonated drinks came up and I know that Nigerians who love sweet things will protest if the cost of carbonated drinks is increased through taxation and I remember discussing with him and we agreed that being a civil servant, I can’t speak about it until the policy comes out. I told him to develop a workshop around it and he did it. And I know the controversy that followed thereafter. Again, it also shows that if there’s partnership between the media, the rest of the society and the Nigeria Customs Service, something good will come out because after his workshop, customs took it very serious to make sure that this thing becomes law to avoid issues between us and the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria particularly those in the food and beverage sector.
The Nigeria Customs Service Act 2023 supported by other supplementary legal instruments like the customs legal notice, the Customs code, the Common External Tariff, the foreign exchange Act, the Anti-Money Laundering Act. These are the laws we use that so many people don’t know about. Every other person was paying attention to the old CEMA and now, people are also paying attention to the new customs Act but it is important that we bring it to your attention so that as publishers, that you also know that these other laws exist so that when decisions are taken, you don’t have to query so much about the relevance of those decisions.
Also in use are other international protocols arising from Nigeria membership of ECOWAS, World Customs Organization and the World Trade Organization.
…To be continued.
Photo: Comptroller General of Customs, Mr. Bashir Adewale Adeniyi.
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