The Battle For The Soul Of ANLCA: Who Wins?

The Battle For The Soul Of ANLCA: Who Wins?

Customs Should Prioritize Trade Facilitation, Border  Control Over Revenue Generation- Nwokeoji

Customs Should Prioritize Trade Facilitation, Border  Control Over Revenue Generation- Nwokeoji

Emenike Nwokeoji served as Vice President during the tenure of Prince Olayiwola Shittu and is regarded in some quarters as a strong candidate for the position of President of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA).

In this interview with MMS Plus’ Babajide Okeowo, he unveiled his plan of restoring the lost glory of the association.

He urged the newly appointed Comptroller General of Customs, DCG Adewale Adeniyi to prioritise trade facilitation ahead of revenue generation. Excerpts.

You’ve Received Endorsements From Some Stakeholders In ANLCA Regarding Your Presidential Ambition. What Do You Think Is Responsible For This?

It’s very obvious. I know that I’ve received endorsements from about four or five past presidents of ANLCA.  They  know me, they have my record and they know what I can do and my capacity.

And it is the confidence they have in me that if given the chance, I will make a difference, this is why they are sticking out their necks to endorse me. That’s what I believe.

And If You Win The ANLCA Presidency, What Are The Things That You Will Do For Members?

The theme for our campaign is restoration. This association was somewhere five years ago during the Presidency of Prince Olayiwola Shittu which I was part of as Vice President. In fact, starting from Ernest Elochukwu that took us to meet the president of this country for the first time face-to-face, Prince Shittu came in and built on that where we synergized with customs at the top which has smoothen our operations and relationship in diverse ways, and also helped us with enriching the image of an average agent internationally.

We were well recognized so much that many agents, for the first time, got international passports and visas and traveled out of this country for the first time because of both training and attending conventions and meetings with our international affiliate organization.

As you know, as one that is following activities in the industry, you are aware that for the last five years after the regime that took over from Prince Shittu, from that time to this point, a lot has gone down.

The worst being that agents have lost their respect before critical stakeholders, agencies of government in fact, generally.

Doing business now became something else as agents now sleep better when they have no job on their table.

Because the moment they have a job, their blood pressure will rise up with thinking on how to deliver the job to the satisfaction of their clients.

So, that’s why we are putting ourselves forward to restore first, the dignity, to restore peace in the association because the association has been in turmoil. We did that, I and Shittu when we came in.

Even those that are now aspiring to be president, when we came in, they took the association to court, but we were able to use diplomacy to welcome and bring them back even against public opinion that we should not take back those who have taken the association to court.

Right now, we have people who believe that things must be done through fighting, that is where we are now.

The bottom line is that we are going to restore peace in the association, respect, integrity, and restore our relationship with all government agencies.

We are going to restore the communication between us and agencies of government because since the past five years they have been militant about it and the agents have been the worst for it.

So, we want to restore all those lost glories of ANLCA so people can now do their business in a conducive atmosphere.

What Are The First Issues That The New Acting CG Of Customs Should Be Looking At?

One is that we rejoice with the Nigeria Customs Service for having a professional now as CG. For years, we have been clamoring that the job of the Comptroller General of Customs should be left in the hands of a professional officer. Now, at the end of the day, it has happened. 

We are open to working with the new CG, he is the one that will set the agenda, we believe very strongly that because he has been part of the system, he will want to succeed and one of the things that will make his regime a success is the relationship that he is going to build with the licensed agents.

So, we are available in any area that he needs our assistance, in terms of advice and collaborations so that he can achieve the best out of the position.

We will do that but it will be unfair to start maybe like giving him conditions of things to do, he has an agenda and we would watch even when he takes a wrong step it’s always normal because we are human. It is left for us to use internal mechanism to advise him that this might not be the best and give reasons why. I believe that he will listen and together, we will make his regime a success.

Customs Have Always Been Lampooned For Prioritizing Revenue Generation Ahead Of Trade Facilitation, What’s Your Take On This?

It might not necessarily be their problem because the federal government of Nigeria turned Nigeria Customs Service into a revenue-generating engine by setting targets for them which is totally wrong, absolutely wrong.

All over the world, they are border control officers and they are not a revenue-generating organ of government. Maybe that’s the way our own is structured so much that if you check, they are amongst the top revenue-generating organ of government, and border control is now secondary to their activity.

Secondly, trade facilitation and international trade because Nigeria signed so many treaties with the government of many other foreign countries. But what is happening in most cases is that we do not respect all these things simply because the emphasis is on revenue generation.

I believe that all these things are going to take a different shape going forward.  That customs should not be for revenue generation alone. Trade Facilitation should be number one, and then border control.

Why I Am The Candidate To Beat- Farinto

Why I Am The Candidate To Beat- Farinto

Dr Kayode Farinto is the Acting President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs (ANLCA), he is also vying to become the substantive president of the association during the forthcoming July 5th 2023 National Executive Committee (NECOM), election. 

In this interview with Babajide Okeowo of MMS Plus, he disclosed why he is the candidate to beat at the forthcoming elections, the need for the acting Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service to prioritize trade facilitation ahead of revenue generation. 

He also lampooned the former CG of Customs for being inaccessible during his seven-year stint as CG and with the emergence of a core officer at the helms of affairs, what the new CG should do differently. Excerpts 

Why Are You The Candidate To Beat At The Forthcoming Election? 

The endorsement is a result of the fact that for the little period that I have been acting president, people have seen all the kinds of quality leadership that we have put in place. How we have protected our members. 

The motto of ANLCA is that the interest of our members must be protected which we have been following through with. We also have a huge following and I believe I’m the best candidate for this for this position because I have sold out all my ten electoral promises vis-a-vis rebranding the image of ANLCA, ensuring that and the fact that there are many things that we need to put on board. 

As I talk to you now foreigners are taking over our jobs. All the project cargoes are been handled by foreigners which is wrong. We will pursue that vigorously. 

We also ensure that we collaborate with our federal government to ensure that we will be given 1% of whatever money we generate on a yearly basis. 

These are many other qualities that people see in us, and also our contribution when we insisted that a career officer should be made the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service which has actually yielded results now.

Also, on the issue of our licenses which used to be renewed yearly, we pushed for them to be renewed every four years, this is actually my personal contribution, it was captured and has been passed and signed by former President Muhammadu Buhari.

They are also aware that as President, I will protect the interest of the nation. If you recall on the issue of Vehicle Identification Number introduced by the Nigeria Customs Service, and when the Customs was being slammed all over the internet, I was the only one who came out to say that the implementation was wrong.

You can have two types of 2005 Corolla but they are not the same thing because of wear and tear, because of the law and you should not pay the same duty. And even when you pay the duty that you have been given you still have over-zealous officers still stopping these vehicles and cargo on the road and from experience what they are doing, which is very wrong. 

So they saw our manifestos and key into it and believe that says a lot because when we come on board, we are going to sit with Nigeria Customs Service going forward and define our Modus Operandi, Let us if they will key into it, when a cargo is released, the will be no reason for another overzealous officer to stop this cargo.

These and many more are the fights that we’re going to take to the federal government and to make sure that we are sanity in our ports.

Also, There Are Some Stakeholders Who Have Been Kicking And Have Been Making Subtle Statements Disparaging Your Candidacy, What Do You Make Of This? 

I look at it as an ordinary distraction. It is allowed in political settings and once there is an electioneering campaign people will malign your character.

There has been breaking news that I am stepping down, which is not true. These are some of the antics that the opposition will want to pull up with once they know that you are a formidable opposition, particularly when they know that the candidate that they are selling is not a sellable candidate.

These are mere distractions, I am focused, I am going ahead with the election and doing my campaign. I was at the National Airport where I also campaigned to our members and immediately after Sallah, there will be the Mother of All Rallies at Tin-Can Island Port, where we will finish our campaign. So, we are not disturbed by all of that, we are not distracted. 

On The Issue Of The Trade Facilitation Function Of Nigeria Customs Services, How Will You Be Pursuing The Implementation Of This If You Become President? 

One of the first things that I will do, which I have been doing is to make sure that the level of compliance of our people increases. The level of compliance has increased over the past four years.

If you look at it graphically it has been increasing. But where is the encouragement? When somebody complies and eventually you see somebody who is short-changing the system and is not complying is the one who is having a faster way to clear his cargo. These are the things we are going to discourage. 

When somebody complies, that person must be given clearance to deliver his cargo. But for now, we do not have Trade Facilitation in Nigeria Customs, what the Customs have is just revenue generation and thank God that a core officer has been appointed, and who knows what trade facilitation means. Nigeria has set up a committee on trade facilitation to which I have delivered a paper to.

With the emergence of a core officer as Customs CG, we will now bring the issue of trade facilitation to the front burner and ensure that it goes Pari-passu with compliance.

Once somebody complies then the trade is facilitated. You cannot be talking about compliance when there’s no trade facilitation. So, we make sure we marry these two together and encourage our members to key into it and that will be done. 

What Are The Things That The Acting CG Should Do To Ensure Trade Facilitation? 

The first thing he needs to do is to have a meeting with stakeholders, this is something that has been lacking. In the last seven years, there has not been stakeholders’ engagement, this must be brought back.

World Customs Organisations WCO 2013 Handbook said that every custom formation must collaborate Customs brokers and stakeholders.

This is not happening. Being a proper officer, he must ensure that he brings in engagement; engaging the Custom’s broker, the freight forwarders, that is number one.

Secondly, he must be accessible; he must make himself accessible. We had a Comptroller General who has been evasive; you can’t see him, he’s not available when there are critical issues to take decisions on, he’s not available.

Thirdly, he must make sure that he put the issue of trade facilitation on the front burner and must discourage the situation where overzealous officer will now stop consignment that has been duly released in the port. I am talking about setting up a task force here and there, all these lead to delays. Once a consignment is released, nobody stops it except national security report against such consignment.

If he’s able to achieve one or three of these points, then, I’ll tell you, everybody will fall in line and we’ll all know that there is a new sheriff in town, and the level of compliance will be increased by itself and then, the service will be able to generate revenue that it has not generated before. 

And there are other issues that he also needs to put in place, the training of custom brokers is very important. 

WCO said every custom formation must train customs brokers. We have never been trained in the last seven years and that is very bad. 

The last training we had was during the era of Dikko Inde as Comptroller General of Customs. So, let him start with these four agenda and you’ll see us having a robust administration and there will be sanity in the industry. 

During Your Campaigning at MMIA Recently, You Spoke About Foreigners Taking Over Our Project Cargo Jobs, What Will You Be Doing To Address This Issue?

I have started working to address this even before being elected, during the CEMA Bill compilation, we presented a paper by ANLCA where we said foreigners should not be licensed by Customs, I’m delighted to tell you that Section 105 (3) of the CEMA Act signed into law said that non-Nigerians shall not be registered as a custom’s representative.

So, we are starting from there and we will now make sure that we sanitize ourselves and also make sure that we do it on time.

If we don’t do it on time, we’re likely going to have what happened in South Africa, Xenophobia.

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