By DAPO OLAWUNI
There are indications that the House of Representatives Committee on Customs is set to resuscitate the defunct Customs Consultative Forum (CCF) which was established by the former Comptroller General of Customs, Abdullahi Inde Dikko.
This indication was given by the Vice President of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Dr Kayode Farinto in a chat with newsmen in Lagos last week.
Farinto was briefing journalists on the outcome of a public hearing called by the House of Representatives Committee on Customs to look into an 11-paged allegations earlier written by ANLCA against the Nigeria Customs Service On challenges surrounding cargo clearance process at the port.
“The house has now directed that the initial Customs Consultative Council which was in play during the era of former CG, Inde Dikko, which we used to synergies and rub minds should be resuscitated so that we can know where there are issues to be strengthened” he said
Farinto however alleged that two notable figures in the freight forwarding profession namely, former President of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Mr Increase Uche and the National President of African Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON) Otunba Frank Ogunojemite were both on hand at the hearing to speak against the generality of freight forwarders.
He alleged that the duo of Increase Uche and Otunba Ogunojemite pointedly accused freight forwarders of being the masterminds of document falsification at the port.
“Customs also brought Increase Uche and Otunba Ogunojemite, they were both actually conversing for Customs.
Increase Uche was alleging that it was freight forwarders that are falsifying documents, he is not even a licensed agent, he is an ordinary freight forwarder”
“We defended our allegations and customs had nowhere to hide because, everything we presented were facts. Are you now saying that we do not have more than five alerts? Are you now denying that we do not have uniformed value on vehicles? More than five units of customs outside the ports”
“But, I want the whole industry to know that people like Increase Uche and Otunba Ogunojemite spoke against freight forwarders, saying that they falsify documents”
“Whatever they did was for pecuniary reasons, invitations was not extended to them, but we thank God that we were able to establish the fact that a lot of things are wrong in our system” Farinto stated.
According to the ANLCA Vice President, there is need for the National Assembly to invite the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Ministry of Finance to address certain issues in the shipping sector which is directly responsible for high rate of the Dollars against the Naira.
He said “If you look at what is happening in the shipping sector now, 69 commodities are under forex restrictions list, many people do not want to engage in false declaration, but because you cannot open form M for a commodity that is not under that forex prohibition, you have to call that item another name before you can open the form M.
“The Chairman promised to still bring us back where we would face CBN and Ministry of Finance. CBN should face monetary policy and not face fiscal policy, this is why dollars is very high and reason for false declaration”
He argued that the Federal Government can generate more revenue than what it is currently setting as target for the Customs.
According to him, this would only be realisable if government enters into a partnership with the licensed customs agents by giving back incentives, at least one percent of the total revenue collected in a year.
He said “We can generate more than what customs is collecting right now, government should give the licensed agents one percent of the total revenue generated annually and this would increase the government revenue.
“Sometimes, we finance clearance of cargoes on behalf of the importer and they do not give back our money until after ninety days, without even adding any interest. If government agrees to give the one percent, we would not allow importer to cross the “border line” in cheating the government because our percent would be at stake.
“People underrated customs licensed agents, but without us the government cannot generate money, we are the ones going to the bank to make declaration and pay these money” Farinto stated