The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) has affirmed its handicap in the fight against corruption and smuggling activities in cargo clearance practices when it in asserted that it has no powers to reduce tariff, during a stakeholders’ meeting.
The Controller General of Customs (CGC) Col. Hammed Ali Rtd., who was on a familiarization tour in Lagos, while fielding questions at the stakeholders’ meeting in Apapa, yesterday said, “the issue of the removal of the ban on rice importation is a fiscal policy and as long as we have a policy that is not favorable definitely there will be diversion of goods to neighboring countries.
“The rice duty is, 10 to 20 percent for millers and 10 to 50 percent for importers, even though we are operating the same Common External Tariff (CET) within the sub region, we have discovered that in Cotonou, their rice tariff is 10 percent and it has further been reduced to 5 percent and we have added 60 percent on our own to make it 70 percent.”
The World Customs Organization (WCO) cannot give us tariff , we are not subject to follow the tariff plan of WCO, the government was given a benchmark to choose our tariff within the CET and the rate of our tariff is still within the CET of the of the sub region. Customs cannot change the tariff our duty is to collect revenue on tariff as given by the Federal Minister of Finance.
Speaking further he said, “We have discussed this at management level, that the view on the reduction of tariff on certain goods especially rice, should be sent to the Federal Minister of Finance, this policy should be reviewed, the only thing that should be given preferential rate should be paddy and brown rice, these can have added value, every other rice should be reduced to 10-20 but if the government in its wisdom wants to make it 10-50 fine, but then there must be caution because we should not be too high for people to want to choose other countries and then smuggle the goods through the borders.”
The CG reacted to the question of The Senior Special Advicer to the President on Technical Matters of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Mr. Taiwo Omotosho, who stated that for the Customs to really increase revenue and if the CG is truly sincere in his anti-corruption crusade, he has to adopt (WCO)policy on revenue generation as operated in other countries.
He said that according to the WCO, the tariff is between 0-5percent but Nigerians are made to pay 30percent to 35percent, noting that nobody who wants to import through this country will want to pay so much.
He stated that we need to look at this other countries that charge lower tariffs and are getting their revenue if we really want to achieve a corrupt free trade system in Nigeria.
The Public Relations of ANLCA, Dr.Collins Farinto, highlighted some other issues in the ports that will contribute to a successful tenure for the CG and aid the fight against corruption when he stated that most of the scanners are not working and the few functional ones have become obsolete, he added that there has been congestion at the ports due to difficulties experienced in assessing Form M causing cargo to accrue demurrage.
He also stated that incessant alerts on cargo declaration has been a pain in the neck for importers and urged the CG to use his good office to issue a directive that once a Pre Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) has been issued the only reason to query it should be wrong classification or under declaration of cargo.
Similarly, Chief Eugene Nweke, President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) lent his voice in agreement to the assertion of the first two freight agents when he said, “I agree with most of the issues raised by my colleagues and I wish to add that the PAAR should be made more interactive to facilitate trade.”