The Founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) and critical stakeholder in the clearing and freight forwarding industry in the maritime sector, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam has urged the Federal Government to seek a sustainable way of funding the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to allow for efficiency.
He said this in a release given to journalists at a press briefing in his office in Lagos, last week as he also solicited the autonomy of the service from the Federal Ministry of Finance citing the strategic nature of the service to the economy.
Dr. Aniebonam said, “It is our view that the Nigeria Customs Service should be excised from Finance Ministry and granted partial autonomy because of the strategic nature of the agency.”
According to him, the morale of the men and officers of the service is very low due to non payment of their entitlements at the right time and lack of sophisticated equipment or effective anti smuggling operations in the country.
Speaking further, he said the approved budgetary allocation to the service between 2010 and July, 2014 is above N378.9 billion meanwhile only about N279.4 billion has since been released to the service leaving a balance of over N99.5 billion yet to be released hence, it is telling on its operations and activities.
According to the release, “Your Excellency, it is public domain that between 2010 and 2014 (up to July), the approved budget for the service may be N378,974,132,999.80. our checks revealed that Nigeria Customs Service may have just received N279,423,858,602.50 leaving a balance of N99,550,274,397.30.”
The NAGAFF founder who said that the present arrangement of granting the service 7% of duty collected which he said is inadequate as running cost, suggested that the Federal Government should grant them between five to seven percent of the Free On Board (FOB) value of imports for them to take up additional responsibilities like Destination Inspection Function.
However, he questioned the status of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) as a government agency saying if it was, the council should be properly funded and the Board of Directors be constituted.
He therefore threatened to contest the recent court ruling which stated that CRFFN is a Government Agency which he has said it was not.
In addition, he condemned the state of the access roads to the port describing it as national shame and embarrassment adding that the port is strategic to the Nigeria economy.
He stated that the damage the bad roads are doing to the economy is a great concern to him as a stakeholder because any delay in the ship turnaround time amounts to more money paid as demurrage to foreign ship owners which the Central Bank will pay the penalty from the country’s foreign reserves.
The founder who doubles as the National Chairman of a political party enjoined the presidency to convene maritime transport, customs and freight forwarding summit in order to address the operations at the gateway of the country that are presently not working well.