· Remove CG’s Strike Force at Ports
As President Muhammadu Buhari prepares to begin his second term in office after a successful poll in his favour, the League of Maritime Editors and Publishers has called on him to carry out a major reform in the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
The League urged President Buhari to consider, for the sake of the national economy, the appointment of a career Customs Officer to the position of Comptroller General.
The Association said that the Customs Service under Col. Hammed Ali (Rtd) has only focused on revenue generation without considering trade facilitation, which is imperative for Nigeria as a member of the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the World Trade Organization(WTO). Nigeria is a signatory to both global bodies’ conventions on trade facilitation.
A career customs officer appointed from the serving officers in the system, the group said, is be better equipped to drive the Customs Service to enviable position in terms of trade facilitation which the global economic community is earnestly yearning for and repositioning the service to achieve its core mandate for the nation’s economic development.
According to the group, in line with the international best practices, there is currently no member of the WCO, where a non-career Customs officer is heading the Service.
In a statement signed by the League President, Mr. Kingsley Anaroke and the Secretary, Mr. Francis Ugwoke, they stated: “Your Excellency may note that there is nowhere in the world where a non-career officer heads the Customs Service as such position requires a career officer who has deep rooted knowledge on trade and tariff matters. As it is now, the Customs which is headed by a former military officer, Col. Hammed Ali,(rtd) is only concerned about revenue generation with little or no emphasis on trade facilitation and human capacity development. This is contrary to the conventions and the rules of engagement of the WCO and the WTO which are in the forefront of championing trade facilitation as imperative to economic development.
“Your Excellency may also be informed that trade facilitation when properly pursued by a career officer in the system will in itself automatically raise revenue generation more than what is being realized now. What is seen as a regular increase in revenue generation by the present leadership of the Customs is as a result of the prevailing foreign exchange rate with which import duty is calculated”, the group noted.
The group also condemned the recent decision by the Customs Service allowing the operatives of the CG Strike Force to re-examine goods inside the ports and seize them if necessary.
The group, however noted that it is not averse to the operations of the strike force, which is in line with the prerogative of the CG to appoint committees to enhance the Service’s core mandates and the war against smuggling activities, but frowns at the directive empowering the Strike Force to operate inside the port, which negates the negates the spirits of the global conventions.
According to the group, this shows a clear indication of vote of no confidence on the resident Customs officers inside the ports.
Dismissing the reasons adduced by the Customs authority for the decision, the group said what the Customs Service should have done to ensure that officers do their job very well would have been to carry out serious disciplinary measures against any erring officers; not duplication of functions.
The implication of the presence of the Strike Force in the ports is that importers will now pay more as a result of extortionist tendencies.
The Editors therefore urge the federal government to ensure the installation of scanners at the examination bays for seamless clearance of goods and the enhancement of the 48 hrs cargo clearance target. This, they believe, will further promote the ease of doing business in the ports and the border posts.