Customs Waivers: What Does It Do?

Customs Weaver: What Does It Do?
Ngozi Okonjo Iweala and Abdullahi Dikko Inde

The whole essence of waivers granted by the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Finance is to help galvanise,  nourish and irrigate indigenous firms whose financial stands are not yet firmly rooted.

It sometimes serves as a means of encouraging indigenous firms or organizations to remain in business but when such opportunity is abused, it then becomes an economic hole through which nation’s wealth leaks.

Waivers are also granted on personal effects coming into the country but must be in a such justifiably small quantity.

As good as all these factors are, it has been discovered that some individuals who seem to be stronger than government institutions though not by law by the amount of power arrogated to themselves, bring goods into the country in commercial quantities and would not pay duty .

The trend has become so common that highly placed government officials alleged by import goods into Nigeria under the mercy of waivers and revenue accruable to the government is dwindling on daily basis.

Dangote Group is the major beneficiary of the scheme as a result of the number of staff it employs and to help it compete in the global business world. This act by the government is to help the group to avoid any form of financial burden that can lead to it’s slide.

However, some stakeholders in the maritime industry have expressed their sentiments towards waivers. They believe that waivers is an international convention and that since Nigeria is a signatory to such convention, it is pertinent for it to engage in it.

However, they regret that the lofty idea has been watered by some individuals who hide under waivers to import items into the country without paying the necessary due into the coffers of the government.

On the other hand, they believe that it also provides avenue for importation of illegal items because they are so powerful that even the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) officials are not allowed to carry out their statutory role of inspection on some consignments because of the names under which they are imported.

According to Mr. Chidiebere Enelamah,  Chairman. Board of Trustees (BOT) of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), “It is not good to give waivers to corporate bodies because they are equally Nigerians. When you create room for waivers for them, you are encouraging unhealthy competition. But if it is on diplomatic goods, I think you can allow that because diplomatic goods have been there and Nigeria is a signatory to the conventions that gives rights to countries to allow diplomatic goods to come in unhindered”

He added, “But if it is on selective items, that is wrong because all of us buy from the same market.”

He however lamented that government has not helped some of the institutions created by it to fare well because some individuals are perceived to be stronger than some government institutions.

When compromise sets in, the purpose of the scheme is derailed and it will definitely take it’s toll on the purse of the nation.

David Pius, a port activist and Chief Executives Officer (CEO) of Uburu Maritime Services quipped that those individuals who use their social or political class in the country to bring in consignments into the country without paying the necessary duty are only compounding the economic woes of the country.

In his take, he blames the Federal Government for the loopholes created because such individuals cannot bring in cargoes into the country without the consent of the government.

“It now depends on government to state who is allowed. If government has allowed some people for what reason were they given waivers?

“It is the government that gave them that paper to bring in those consignments under that waiver, customs has no right whatsoever to question anybody.

The Nigeria Customs’ duty is to carry out whatever order they are given; they have no moral right to challenge government’s order. Theirs is to carry out the directives given them by the government that is why it becomes difficult to control the arbitrary importation of goods in commercial quantities without a hoot.

Looking critically into the issue, the sole reason for granting of waivers is for economic gain for the country and to help stabilize local industries to be able to country favourably with their foreign counterpart.

But when the purpose is accused and waivers is channeled to favour private individuals who are friends of the government or politically powerful persons, it does not only impinge on the country’s  rules and regulations, it stagnates development because public funds are being diverted into private pockets.

The fear is that if the trend continues, especially in this era of economic hardship, Nigeria will surely pay dearly for it.

Another factor which sends jitters into the spines of well meaning Nigerians is the possibility of hiding under the scheme to import prohibited goods into the country..

Some have even expressed concerns that most of the illegal arms coming into Nigeria could be through these goods with waivers.

How true this could be depends largely on whether such goods are even allowed to be subjected to search before entry into the market.

In addition, there are fears in some quarters that there may be some compromised elements in the port who are planted to monitor free passage of such consignments in order to satisfy their personal aggrandizement.

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