By DAPO OLAWUNI
A frontline freight forwarder and Vice Chairman, Customs Consultative Committee, Chief Eugene Nweke has condemned the Federal Government proposal to merge the Nigeria Customs Service with other government agencies like the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Federal Executive Inland Revenue Service (FIRS)
Nweke, a former President of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) in a lengthy press statement on Thursday cautioned the government against such moves, saying that it would be counterproductive because Customs is the lead agency in the port.
The statement is titled “BEFORE CONTEMPLATING THE MERGER OF THE NIGERIA CUSTOMS WITH ANY OTHER GOVERNMENT AGENCY, THERE IS NEED TO REVISIT AND APPRECIATE ITS DISTINCTS ROLES TO THE NATION”
See excerpts below:
Last weak it was reported that, a group of economic advisers proposed to the new government, for the merger of the Federal Inland Revenue Service ( FIRS), Nigeria Customs Service ( NCS) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency ( NIMASA) as one single agency to be christened as the Nigeria Revenue Service ( NRS).
Indeed, while not totally ruling out the need to merge some Ministries, Directorates, Agencies and Commissions ( MDACs), for the single reason of curtailing high government budgetary expenditure of the government.
However, it must be boldly stated that , the said proposed agencies merger was a wrong mix match and obviously dead on arrival, because, comparative study shows that, revenue generation interests alone is not enough reason for merging essentially a technical, safety and security driven and structured agencies of the government.
Understandably, while the mergers of; the Central Bank Of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) may not receive high public resentment or out cry;
Equally, taking a cue from the Maritime Americas, where same agencies functions like the Nigeria Inland Waterway Authority ( NIWA), The Nigeria Port Authority, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency ( NIMASA), the Nigeria Navy and the Nigeria Port Authority, the Niger Dock, Ametc were integrated under the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) could be contemplated, with less public resentments.
From an email interactions with captains of industry from other maritime nations on the subject matter, Customs has and will continue to stands out as a lead agency as far as international trade and shipping transportation is involved.
The reason adduced for this global recognition is because of the following distinct roles to a nation which inherent technicalities position it above the status of a department under any agencies, rather the functions of other agencies are easily integrated under the Customs functions. Therefore, it is important for the proponents or sponsors of this proposal to REVISIT THE DISTINCTS ROLES OF THE NIGERIA CUSTOMS TO THE NATION as follows:
Administratively, the principal roles of the Nigeria Customs Service includes to exercise Customs control on the commercial/international exchange of trade and services; Assessing and collecting Customs duties and taxes in the imports and exports trade at the entry points; Fight against smuggling activities and counteracting Customs frauds; etc,
However, there is need to explain in detail other series of responsibilities ( also known as fiscal functions in the areas of protection and control) being fulfilled by the Nigeria Customs, while performing these roles, and it undertakes some of this responsibilities in collaboration with other designated agencies, which includes:
1.01. In The Area Of Protection: – The Nigeria Customs Service undertake the following protections:
a). Protection of the National Industries against a trade in goods which would affect adversely the conditions of competition in the Country.
b). Protection of our Natural Environment against an entry of hazardous substance and micro organisms, etc.
c). Protection of Fauna and Flora against illegal predatory circulations of endangered species.
d). Protection of the Nigeria Consumers against the entry into the market of goods which are substandard with relation to “polish norms” or whose period of uses has expired.
e). Protection of the larger Society against the entry of goods, items or appliance which are hazardous to the security of the country ( e.g. Weapons, paralyzing gases, etc).
f). Protection of the State against the loss of cultural heritage ( primarily against the exportation of goods of cultural values).
g). Protection of indigenous authors, artists, industrial and commercial rights owners against infringement of intellectual property rights, trademarks, patent rights, etc.
1.02. In The Area Of Control: – The Service undertake absolute control in the following areas:
a) Undertake control in the area of State’s Customs policy instrument regarding the targets and volumes of international trade permissible into the country in a given year or period where necessary ( e.g. monitoring the execution of Customs quotas, rebates, waivers, etc).
b). Undertake control in the area of the enforcement of national and international regulations relating to prohibitions and restrictions in the international trade. The enforcement of regulations regarding permissible load of vehicles to ensure proper user of roads by carriers. The enforcement of agreement concerning Customs prevention with Poland as a party, and the domestication and enforcement of international conventions, treaties , etc
c). Undertake control in the area of foreign currency policy enforcement, including combating the so-called money laundering, drugs & human trafficking across borders, etc.
1.03. Embracing The Concept Of People, Partnership And Political Support In The Discharge Of Responsibilities: – In order for the Customs to effectively discharge the above responsibilities, the World Customs Organization adopted and urged global Customs to embrace the concept of “People, Partnership and Political Support ( 3Ps)”.
In this regards the Nigeria Customs Service corporate and partners with the following:
i). Other designated regulatory services and agencies of the country such as the Police, Border Guards, General Customs Inspectorates , FIRS, SON, NAFDAC, NDLEA, NAQS, NIS, etc.
It could be noted that, before the establishment NAQS, SON, NDLEA, NAFDAC, etc via legislative enactments their respective functions were at one time carried out by the Customs, this also suggests the reasons, why some agencies often accuses the Customs of administrative overlapping functions and claims that the Customs is aiding and abating, forgotten the provisions of the CEMA.
ii). Customs and Investigation Services from other countries, including the Interpol, etc.
iii).Commercial Organization and Finance Institutions, etc.
iv). Research and Scientific Institute, Universities and Similar Organizations.
Finally, with this detailed reminder of the distincts role of the Nigeria Customs Service to the nation, it is obvious that, contemplating it for a merger theory is a smack of leadership insensitivity.
May, I urged the sponsors, to rather see reasons why it should positively deploy their efforts, mobilize and explore its contacts to support the Nigeria Customs Service at ensuring that, the plot to return part of its statutory functions of imports and exports valuation is not returned to a modernized pre shipments inspection under the theory of e-customs modernization concession is resisted squarely.
Thanks for your attention.
Fwdr Dr Eugene Nweke Rff Fnis Fptm Fffa Fasca Ksm
Vice Chairman – Customs Consultative Committee.
22nd June, 2023.