By EKPO, ERI
The agencies and stakeholders of the maritime industry converged at the Customs Training College, Ikeja, Lagos on Friday, last week, to mark the International Customs day with the theme: “Customs Engaging Traditional and New Partners With Purpose” The annual event which takes place every January 26th, had dignitaries from all facets of the marine industry as well as the supply chain industry.
Ministers, representatives of service chiefs, captains of industries as well as top members of the press graced the occasion which featured presentation of different categories of awards to partners and stakeholders in trade supply chain.
The Comptroller-General of Customs(CGC),Adewale Adeniyi in his opening remarks said the choice of the theme of this year’s celebration aligns with the core objectives of Customs as outlined in their three point agenda of consolidation, innovation and collaboration. He added that this agenda has been a guiding principle providing framework for action over his past seven months as the Nigeria Customs’ head.
He however talked tough on unscrupulous individuals who think they can have their way with the Nigeria Customs. In his words “This year, we commit to fostering the substantial improved relationship with all our stakeholders especially those who respect our rules, we recognize that authentic partnership are constructed on mutual respect and understanding and those who remain compliant and abide by the rules can anticipate a more streamlined and supportive collaboration, however, it is crucial to emphasize that this commitment does not extend to non- compliant entity”
The Minister of Industry, Trading and Investment ,Doris Uzoka-Anite represented by the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council(NEPC), Mrs Nonye Ayeni, in her goodwill message said the theme of this year’s celebration aligns with her ministry’s vision to build trade partnership with critical trade modules like the Nigeria Customs Service.
Talking about their common goal, she said, “I’m of the firm belief that the role of customs is very critical to promoting trade, especially in the wake of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)”.
She added that for Nigeria to become a key player in international trade, efforts should be geared towards building a strong economy for the country and can only be achieved through collaborative partnership.
Speaking at the event, the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority,NPA, Mohammed Bello-Koko said the theme of the event is one that is delightful to everyone associated with NPA and state the benefits of the partnership are already evident.
In his words,”We are already recording gains from our renewed collaboration with the Nigeria Customs, which has led to noticeable reduced cargo dwell time and ship waiting time which has already decongested the Ports and this collaboration also gives fillip to our commitment to the deployment of the Port Community System (PCS) which the NPA has propelled to the final phase of consultancy under the technical guidance of the International Maritime Organization (IMO)”
He further stated that the alignment of the visions between the NPA and the Nigeria Customs is a good omen for trade facilitation and National prosperity.
Also present at the event was the Executive Secretary/CEO of the Nigerian Shippers’Council, Barr. Pius Akutah, who averred that the theme of the event is germane and it represents the very interest upon which the government of the day is working towards developing the economy.
He stressed that the days where agencies worked in silos are gone and were the days of little results. Quoting the NSC chief, “Trade facilitation is the key to today’s economy and we must have to work together in collaborative effort to achieve the target that has been set for this government, to grow the economy from where we are to where we need to be” He however commended the Nigeria Customs for displaying character in leadership and said it has never been this good.
Also gracing the event was the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency,NIMASA, Bashir Jamoh who commended the NCS over the consistent improvement in the areas of revenue generation, prevention of illegal goods coming into the country and even risking their lives at the borders.
Affiliated associations were also present to commemorate this fateful day. One of such associations happens to be the Association of Nigerian Licensed Custom Agents (ANLCA), the president, Emenike Nwoekeji admonished the NCS to consider having a one- shop- centre for export processing zone , which he said is quite overdue.
Sitting Ghana as an example, the ANLCA boss said just across the border in Ghana’s port, all exports are processed in one shop and as they leave the room, they head straight to the vessel and he believes the CGC will do something about this.
However, he stated that the much talked about collaboration should be for a purpose. In his words “The purpose is for trade facilitation, which we need now more than ever, the purpose is for further control, the purpose is for synergy between the government and the agencies that will work for them”
Mr Eze Anaba, the president, Nigerian Guild of Editors commended the CGC for establishing a smooth relationship with the media and proving that working with the media can lead to operational efficiency.
Highlighting some of the CGC’s achievement, Mr. Anaba said “Highlighting a few thing made known to me by my colleagues in the field and some of these information have not been contradicted, firstly, revenue target has been exceeded, also, the welfare of Customs officers has improved, operational efficiency has improved, competent personnel are deployed to their suited post, that’s why we see more arrest, impoundment and seizures.”
He however pleaded that the guest of honour, the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy,Adegboyega Oyetola, do something about the persistent congestion experienced along the Oshodi/Apapa express way as this has really impacted the generated revenue.
Also, the President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Chief Tochukwu Ezisi, speaking through a representative, Mr Afam Chukwuma, expressed delight seeing the effort NCS is putting together to better the operations at the port and also to enhance freight. He revealed that everyone in Nigeria in one way or the other has been affected by the processes or the cost implications of doing business in the port. However, he praised the CGC for giving freight forwarders a listening ear concerning the improvement of customs proceedings, brainstormed in one of the fora some time ago.
The Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, in his keynote address expressed gratitude for the chance afforded him to speak at the gathering of this esteemed stakeholders in the marine sector. He further stated that collaboration is germane in achieving trade facilitation and the security of the internal supply chain.
The Minister said, “To this end, we must integrate sustainability into policies and strategies, bolster investments in ports, research, and technology, and most importantly, foster inclusive alliances among our stakeholders and partners, including the Nigerian Ports Authority, transporters, freight forwarders, shippers, NIMASA, and the Nigeria Customs Service”
He added that “In this era of increased interdependence, Customs and its stakeholders must work hand in hand to ensure the overall success of the initiatives that will help unlock the immense potential of collaboration and increase revenue generation” He also assured the NCS of his ministry’s unwavering support for collaborative engagement with stakeholders in the international trade community.