Despite the strategic role of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in the nation’s economy and security, the Service has been labeled a major hindrance to trade and the logistics sector, rather than a facilitator.
Complaints about the operations of Customs reached new heights yesterday, as the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki described the Service as a hindrance to trade and logistics instead of a facilitator of trade.
While the Transportation Minister was making this remark in an engagement with maritime stakeholders including; maritime lawyers, journalists and maritime women associations in Lagos, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) was submitting the same concerns at the headquarters of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC).
According to the Minister, the federal government should begin to look beyond the revenue collected by the agency to query the systems deployed to generate such revenue and the effects on the nation’s economy.
“When Customs says it makes trillions, we have to ask at what cost to the economy did Customs Service generate this sum. We have to change the psychic of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) that is responsible for a lot of the problems in the country.”
“We should become aware of the numerous problems Customs is creating that inhibits growth within the maritime sector and many other sectors,” she said.
Recounting her recent experience when she travelled to Benin Republic to sign an agreement between Nigeria and Benin, she said; “I realized that from Seme border to Cotonou there were just two checkpoints but from Seme border to Ikeja, I counted more than 62 checkpoints.”
“At some locations the distance between two checkpoints would take not more than two tables with various agencies like; Customs, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Nigerian Police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), among others. When we got back I engaged the Minister for Interior on the need to reduce the number because a lot of these agencies are actually under the Ministry of Interior.”
In a seperate meeting to flag off the Phase II of ‘Operation Free The Ports Corridor’ yesterday, the National Secretary, ANLCA, Mr. Babatunde Mukaila lamented that Customs officials also add to the problems on the seaport corridors.
His words: “The Customs representative here has told us that Customs officials aren’t stationed on the port access roads or port corridors. His argument is that these officers are patrolling, but that’s not true. They have their vehicles stationed during the day and they move, but from 8pm they are back and they are stationed there.”
According to the ANLCA boss, the interception of already released cargoes by Customs officers on the port corridors hinders trade and the entire logistics supply chain.
Mukaila admonished the Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) not to close with workers by 6pm because the errant Customs officers start their illicit operations along the port corridors by 8pm.
He, however, commended the efforts of PSTT for the modest success observed at the Lagos port environs in the last two months, noting that other task teams never attained such level of success.
Speaking at the meeting, the Deputy Controller in-charge of Administration, Apapa Customs Command, DC Ajibola Odusanya told The News Diet that Customs would investigate and deal with matter appropriately.
His words: “I wouldn’t say the ANLCA executive is manufacturing what he said. However, it’s important to always have feedback mechanisms. We have periodic meetings with the task team led by Mr. Moses Fadipe. Sometimes, they tell us where Customs isn’t doing good and areas for improvement. We have Customs representative in the task team and this goes to show that we are committed to the objectives of the PSTT.”
“The observation that the ANLCA representative brought is something we are going to take seriously. We would investigate and where we find some officers are still recalcitrant, we would deal with matter appropriately. Our goal is to keep on cooperating with the task team to get the desired results.”