· As CBN policies compromised traders’ compliance level at nation’s ports, borders
By Edu Abade,
The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) have commended the Federal Government for lifting foreign exchange (Forex) restrictions on the importation of rice and 42 other items of trade in the eight years of former President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
In response to the announcement by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), its members, who said the lifting of Forex ban on importation of rice and 42 items of traded goods by the Federal Government came at the right time, congratulated the Acting Comptroller General (ACG) of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), over the development.
Reacting to the development, Founder of NAGAFF, Dr Boniface Aniebonam, said: “It has become obvious that new hope for Nigeria has become a reality. This is because it is unthinkable that former CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele other than facing his primary assignment of regulating monetary policy of Nigeria, decided to dabble into fiscal policies and trade matters.
“Emefiele was indeed a disaster to the Nigerian economy. We strongly believe that his travails and ordeals have just started and we thank President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for his popular decision and people-oriented policy to lift the ban on Forex benefits on rice and the 42 items of trade goods.
“And for the customs we thank the past administration for managing the human element barrier to trade, which was caused by Emefiele.
“Most Nigerians may not really know the level of damage done to trade by the action of Emefiele, who mischievously and technically banned the importation of rice and 42 other items of trade goods. This is because the trade policy of Nigeria is mandatory on all imports into Nigeria to undergo Form M registration through the authorised commercial banks.”
Speaking further, he said it therefore meant that the ban on Form M registration on rice importation and the 42 items were a straight ban on the items from being imported into the country.
He urged the Nigerian trading public to be grateful and appreciative of the Nigeria customs to have found a way out to assist within tolerable limits thus relying on section 27 of Customs and Excise Management Act as it was dwelling on improper documentation under the government’s destination inspection trade policy.
“Freight forwarders, shippers and indeed the trading community will never forgive and forget the damage done to their investments by Emefiele’s avoidable actions as CBN governor.
“And for the customs administration we thank God for the relief of the government to have lifted the ban which shall enable you to continue with the ongoing customs modernisation. This is because the actions of Emefiele compromised and stifled compliance level of the trading community in the customs ports and borders.
“What the CGC needed to do at the moment is stakeholders’ engagement, enhanced compliance and responsible partnership with the freight forwarding practitioners. New hope for Nigeria in the area of customs control shall include collaboration with the council for the regulation of freight forwarding of Nigeria whose mandate is to control and regulate the practice of freight forwarding in the country.
“Additionally the new customs administration must understand that modern day administration is about devolution of power and authority to enhance productivity. It therefore means that the zonal commands of the Nigeria Customs Service must be activated to play a major role in customs operations,” he stated.
Aniebonam charged the customs headquarters to concentrate on policy issues, welfare of its officers and men, training and retraining of officers, disciplinary measures, issuance of licenses and permits, promotions, international relations and engagement, among others.
He noted that issuing trade alerts at the ports and borders from its headquarters in Abuja may amount to anti-trade facilitation actions and indeed a sign of distrust of the operational officers and systemic corruption
He also stated that what is certain and indeed a fact is that customs duty assessment starts from the ships manifest submitted to the customs by the captain, adding: “Therefore, the PAAR ruling centre of the customs should attract the attention of the comptroller General of customs. PAAR ruling centre should be made to perform their statutory responsibility as a risk management tool and facilitation of trade.
“As a responsible partner to the NCS at this time and in line with new hope for Nigeria, it is our belief that the Service must think out of the box. We are conversant and familiar with the statutory functions of the customs which shall include but not limited to revenue collection and accounting, suppression of smuggling activities, trade facilitation and provision of trade data for budgetary matters, among others.
“NAGAFF will want the NCS to understand that they are putting too much pressure on revenue collection functions and meeting up targets, which is not good for trade in Nigeria because it is apparent that over-assessment of imports is prevalent.
“What the customs must do is to enhance compliance and ensure proper customs examination of laden containers imported into Nigeria. This is simple and straightforward to ensure appropriate customs duty collection.
“To think out of the box the Nigeria customs service should profile big time importers and encourage them to diversify into manufacturing. In so doing export shall evolve and excise duty will be collected. This is besides the foreign exchange earned from export and creation of employment. Customs is the epicenter of the nation’s economy.
“Once again, we thank the CGC for unbanning the CGC Strike Force and we are looking forward to meeting you in our domain to discuss customs operations and matters of urgent importance, which we cannot talk about here.”