The Federal Government had given a revenue target of N1.5 trillion the Nigeria Customs Service for year 2020, but the Comptroller-General of Customs of Customs, Hameed Ali, in his usual manner raised the target to N2 trillion.
Stakeholders in the maritime sector have expressed shock at the humongous target, while some have expressed fears that Customs would be all out to strangulate and arm twist Nigerian traders in year 2020.
The target will also put customs officers under undue pressure and make them desperate.
The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has even vowed to resist any attempt to frustrate her members by Customs in an attempt to achieve its revenue target this year.
The N2 Trillion revenue is the highest in the history of Nigeria Customs Service revenue targets, and this is not unconnected with the spurious claims by the Comptroller General, Col Ali Ibrahim that the Service has capacity to generate more revenue than what government is setting for her.
While appearing before the Senate and House of Representatives Joint committee on Finance and National Planning On October 2, 2019, Ali had said that customs was generating between N4.7 billion and N5.8 billion since the closure of the land borders
The World Customs Organisation (WCO) and World Trade Organisation (WTO) are urging and encouraging member states to pay more attention on trade liberalization, facilitation and ease of doing business.
To us, it appears that Nigeria Customs Service is existing in a world of its own, an Ivory Tower sort of, because it appears the service is not in sync with the various world trade bodies and Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) whose objective is to increase trade among countries through elimination of trade barriers.
While other countries world over are speaking trade facilitation and removal of trade barriers, Nigeria Customs Service is busy setting revenue targets.
This is however not surprising. Upon resumption into office in 2015, Ali held a meeting with management of the Service where he told them what the President expects of him.
He made it clear that the three basic mandates given to him by President Buhari is to go to Customs, reform Customs, restructure Customs and increase the revenue generation.
No wonder maritime stakeholders were calling for a career customs officer to head the service, an officer that understands how to build traders confidence, facilitate trade and advise the federal government on how to make realistic policies.
Ali has shown the federal government that their is trillions to be made in maritime sector, in 2017 the Customs realised N1.037 trillion, in 2018, the sum of N1.202 trillion was collected, and in 2019, the service realised an unprecedented N1.3 trillion.
We wonder where the Customs intend to collect its N2 trillion target this year when already, the federal government is pursuing its Agricultural Development Policy and local manufacturing and exportation of made in Nigeria products.
Already, the government has placed about twenty three items under restricted importation.
Besides the outright import ban, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) does not provide foreign exchange for the import of many other items, including rice, cement, poultry products, palm oil, wood, fabrics and so on.
The implication of this is that those who import these items can no longer buy foreign currency from the official window to pay the overseas suppliers. Instead, they have to source forex from the parallel market or Bureau De Change to pay for their imports.
Also, the auto policy of the government of 35% duty and 35% levy payable on imported vehicles has discouraged many importers from delving into auto business, not to talk of activities of Federal Operations Unit (FOU) of Customs clamping down on car marts in recent times, all in the bid to shore up their revenue.
There is no doubt that Customs would try to get its N2trillion “anyhow” this year, we actually pity the Nigerian Shippers, importers, traders, these people are the strongest in West Africa, they deserve to be commended.
We expect customs to raid more hotels, car marts, warehouses, private homes and local markets in search of rice, turkey, vegetable oils and smuggled vehicles. No doubt, this would be carried out in their usual gestapo manner.
So, we advise that Nigerian traders should be more compliant this year, especially in classification of cargoes and in declaration, they should declare correctly what they carry in their containers in other not to fall prey into the hands of desperate customs officers.
They must bear in mind that victims of these customs raids would be mandated to show evidence of payment of customs duties on their items, in additional of 25 percent penalty.