e- Customs Modernisation Project Is A Political Game -Omotosho

e- Customs Modernisation Project Is A Political Game -Omotosho
Francis Omotosho

 

 Fwdr. Francis Omotosho is the Registrar of  the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders(NAGAFF) Academy. An expert in maritime matters and one who could easily pass as an authority ,when it comes to maritime discourse.

MMS Plus in its tradition of serving you with sumptuous delicacies of its rich news menu brings you a mind- blowing discussion on trending maritime issues.

In this chat with the NAGAFF Academy Registrar, he speaks on several topical issues in the industry, dissecting them for a better understanding. Find out why the e-Customs project may not work after all. What is his verdict on concession and concessionaires? He spoke with Frank Odinukaeze and Chioma Akabuogu. Enjoy it.


 

The  e-Customs concession project of the Nigeria Customs  Service(NCS),is it in sync with the objectives of AfCFTA?

The e-Customs concession agreement   is in two sides: The first side  is that it may not really bring out good results, the reason being that we have had precedents in the past where we had so many partnerships and concession agreements as far as Customs is concerned. We have had Professional Import Duty Administrators (PIDA) at a time. There was a time the former CG of Customs sponsored a bill for Single Window, up till now that Single Window is not functional.  That is why the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA) is shouting that they are focusing on a Single Window because the Nigeria Customs Service  has failed. Single Window is a situation where everyone in the country will be able to access a common platform.. The single Window Nigeria Customs Service is operating now, only them can see what is inside, no other agency can see what is inside. Everybody other person is locked outside.

In the history of the Nigeria Customs Service they are never straight forward. So, now the pre-inspection agents, their tenure has expired, they are to hand over all the machines and every other thing to customs, and customs should take over and start using it accordingly. As we speak now, as a journalist, do you see any scanning machine in any ports? That agreement just expired, because it was all political, and the person who initiated that idea, former CG Ahmed is no longer in the circle of power. They are just playing power game with the destiny of the country.

 So, what I’m trying to point out is that, I don’t see any sincerity  in whatever concession agreement Nigeria Customs Service is coming up with. It’s just a political game. It will die as soon as these people who are behind that initiative gets out of power. So, it cannot last, it cannot bring out any positive thing other than using it to achieve their purpose of enriching themselves. So, I don’t see them really solving the problem.

But ideally, it’s a welcome development if they are really sincere about the project. Look at it, the entire NCS, is not modernized, look at ordinary VIN that they are supposed to do and ensure it is perfect, the thing is just malfunctioning and add no value. So if they concession it to China, with good technological know-how, it’s good. But if the aims and objectives is solving the problem, not profiteering ,it is  a good idea , but my problem and fear is that it still going to be the same deception.

 

Talking about game, the project, that is, the e-Customs ,it’s projected to yield revenue to the tune of $176bn in 20 years. However, largely, the project is import driven and leaves no hope for export. What do you say?

Why it is import driven is because the focus is on money or profit. It was not designed to solve the problem of  supply chain. They are not even willing or coming to solve the problem of trade facilitation. They are just there, looking for money.

Every business  is a billion dollar investment. All those money they are  wasting time to calculate, is not  the issue. We are talking about solving problems that will facilitate trade, and the supply chain would be made easy, and you are telling us you’ll make billions of dollars in 20 years.  What is my business with your 20 years revenue yield? Can the project solve the problem of trade facilitation? Can that project bring about smooth flow of international trade? Can that project, bring about seamless supply chain? If it cannot and all what you project is billions of dollars yearly, 20 years, 30 years, then the focus is still profit; it is not solving problems.   That is just the problem we have in this country. Everybody is looking at the value of the money they want to make, while over looking the solutions and effect of the solution within one year.

The freight agents are yet to come to terms with the VIN valuation, the 15% NAC levy, and now we are also talking of e-Customs project. Observers are worried that all these would be additional burden on the agents, importers and by extension Nigerians. What is your take on this?

I have nothing to say.

The e-Customs project, is it a general practice around the world or a new innovation by the NCS?

No, It’s not the idea of the Nigeria Customs Service. It has been there for a while. Ghana our neighbor here is practicing it. Other countries too are doing same. For instance, the kind of motor we are using now, six or five months ago, is like I have a bill of lading, I dont know how to pay and I have to go to Customs to ask how much is this car? How much duty do you think I will pay? Customs has its own valuation chart, which we call bench mark.

 

NPA MD,Bello -Koko,said the 2006 port concession  was not in the interest of Nigerians.What’s  reaction to that?

 

That is a political statement. When we did that concession in 2006,Chigbue,then the Director General of Bureau for Public Enterprise (BPE), said that the objective of the port concession was to reduce  cost of doing business. Another objective is to increase cargo throughput. And also to make sure there was smooth flow of cargo. At that time, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) , that he is now managing did not even have any bearing. They were not able to do the job

At a time, they called themselves Nigerian Ports Plc and later reverted to Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). They were changing names thinking that name and reverting name is the solution. That cannot change anything if you have nothing to offer. So, they gave it to the people that can do the job.

So, if Koko is now  talking  as a politician or making political statement that it was not done in the interest of Nigerians, that means that there must be a shake up. The objective of that concession has been defeated. Instead of the amount for cleaning to reduce ,it has gone up two times. So concession has not really achieved its original objective and purpose.

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