The Concerned Accredited Freight Forwarding Association (CAFFA) has expressed dissatisfaction over the speech of the Controller General of Customs (CGC), Rtd. Col. Hameed Ali during his familiarization tour and working visit which, according to them, did not give direction and character on the best way of tackling corruption in the Customs ports and border stations.
In a press statement signed by the presidents of the four freight forwarding associations that make up CAFFA, they said “we can only but advise the Customs management to evolve the concept and practices of public and private partnership in real terms to drive the mantra of change and anti corruption war in the customs ports and border stations.
The hydro scanners and the risk management tools are not reliably being deployed whereas the concept and practices of paperless shipping are being jettisoned or neglected. Documentary checks and processes rather than being simplified are being elongated and there is no reward or bonuses for excellent performance.
In their words, “The terminal operators and shipping companies are allegedly lawless in the Customs ports thus obstructing the lawful duty of officers of the service. The licensing regulation of the Customs using corporate bodies as licensees is the highest threat to Government revenue wherein foreigners and serving Customs officers may be the majority owners of such licences. While CAFFA shall continue to cooperate and support the Customs, it is our advice that a public hearing be convened to discuss the best way Customs ports and border stations business concerns can become more productive and competitive. They added.
The group pointed out that in recent past and on several occasions Alhaji Abdulahi Dikko, the immediate past CGC, had said that the multiple alerts would stop but as he leaves Lagos for Abuja the alerts will double. “We have been told Hydro Scanners will start to work, we have been told that officers who release unaccustomed containers shall be made to pay the short collection, it is a story for the marines.
“We have been told that officers who have been in a command or recycle themselves in a zone shall be transferred, we have been told that officers who ran and manage licenses issued by Customs shall be dealt with, it is all false alert. We have been asking for a harmonized public value for duty assessment, it is still in secrecy. We have been told that checkpoints at the state levels in our city high ways should stop but it is to your tents oh Israel. We have been told that Customs examination is one stop-shop, it is now ten times or more as any unit of the officers may decide.”
The group further lamented, “We have told Customs to jettison licensing of corporate bodies which have become the highest threat to Government revenue, it is to a deaf and dumb because it is considered as a shield to officers and personal benefits. We have told Customs to cooperate and support CRFFN to usher in best practices and professionalism in the business of Customs formalities and freight forwarding Act; they refused but rather insisted on preaching the old and obsolete law of CEMA. We have requested that customs value for duty assessment should be interactive but nobody is listening and so goods continue being overvalued.
“What we are saying is that we are tired of living our lives through bribery activities in our profession and we are pleading that the CGC Rtd. Col. Hameed Ali should remove all obstacles of human element hindrances and simplify clearing processes through Customs control. There should be transparency in the management and administration of Customs laws in relation to trade and commerce in the Customs ports and border areas. There should be uniformity in the rule of engagement at the seaports, airports and border locations to ensure equity, fairness, justice and healthy competition.
We have carefully analyzed his mandate as handed to him by Mr. President. It is our view that his mandate should have also included facilitation of legitimate trade. The solution and way forward to his mandate is to bring the Customs and CRFFN to work together and develop a realistic and sustainable strategy to meet up with Presidential mandate. A synergy should be developed with the critical stakeholders and in particular, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN), National Association of Freight Forwarders & Consolidators (NAFFAC), National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) and Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) to ensure sustainable approach to tackling corruption and ensuring compliance with import/export regulations.
We do hope that the CGC would ask for state pardon from Mr. President for all the Customs officers, freight forwarders, licensed customs agents, importers and exporters etc, who may have given bribe or taken bribe before his assumption of office. If this did not happen it is our view that he may be carrying the Presidential mandate on a shifting sand because he may be generally dealing with corrupt people who have erred against the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the past and present. As it stands now it is only the Comptroller General of Customs that can be absolved from corruption in our ports functions and operations and we pray that he will remain so throughout his mandate of reform, restructure and revenue collection.