The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) on Friday said the existence of multiple Customs units at seaports and airports performing examination and similar duties was affecting smooth trade.
The National President of the Association, Mr Tony Nwabunike, made this allegation during a courtesy visit to the Zone ‘A’ of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Harvey Road, in Lagos.
He urged the service to explain the terms of reference of its Strike Force for proper identification and to forestall impersonation
Nwabunike, who was represented by the Vice President, Mr Kayode Farinto, also pleaded with the customs to look into multiple alerts on cargo.
According to him, other customs commands should adopt the Tin-Can Island Customs Command’s method, called One-Stop Shop Dispute Resolution Centre Approach, where issues of value are treated by Valuation and Classification Alert.
“It is becoming worrisome as exited cargoes are recalled for duty payment, by virtually all customs units in contravention of best practices stipulated by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) guidelines on trade facilitation.
“Customs management should also look into the Ekiti/Ondo Axis of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) on issue of additional duties levied on vehicles intercepted.
“ANLCA requests for coordinating and information-sharing between FOU and other customs units on-line based on the Presidential Order on Ease of Doing Business initiative.
“Our association also plead with the Comptroller-General of Customs, Retired Col. Hameed Ali, to facilitate the allocation of cargo to dormant customs commands such as Lillypond and Kirikiri Lighter Terminal commands to collect more revenue and reactivate the activities of our idle members in those commands.
“We also demand an immediate solution to the non-compliance of Benin Republic on Transit Trade with the extant cross border and international protocol on goods from Benin Republic.
“Customs management should assist in stopping multiple check points along Idi-Iroko/Sango Otta axis as well as other border stations across Nigeria, ” Nwabunike said.
He said that during the day time they usually had two checkpoints and later in the evening they experienced more than 10 check points.
Nwabunike also pleaded with the customs management to intensify efforts to evolve a workable strategy to curb smuggling, while advancing in production on local rice.
He commended the Comptroller-General for the proposal to the Federal Government to reduce the tariff on new vehicles coming through the seaports, saying that the situation had left over 300 licensed customs agents jobless.
The association boss appealed to NCS to re-open the payment of customs duty on imported used vehicles brought into the country through unapproved routes.
He also urged the service to also send a copy of all operational circulars issued by the management to the association.
Nwabunike solicited for sponsorship of members on regular capacity building.
He, however, said that he would ensure that members of the association improve on honest declarations to enable customs achieve 24-hour cargo clearance and generate more revenue for the government.
In her response, the Customs Zonal Coordinator, Zone ‘A’, Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs (ACG) Katherine Ekekezie, commended the efforts of the clearing agents and urged them to continue to collaborate with the service to achieve its mandate.
Ekekezie said that the Customs, Police and the Strike Force were operating based on information, saying that they would not stop containers indiscriminately within the ports area.
According to her, the comptroller-general frowned at multiple checks by the Strike Force and others but they usually strike based on information.
She urged clearing agents to improve on their compliance level.
“The Comptroller-General usually encourages the good officers to continue with the spirit while the bad officers should repent: and if they fail to repent they will involve in the practice that will expose them to the management.
“The Customs management usually dismissed officers caught conniving with clearing agents to short-change the government, ” Ekekezie asked
She urged clearing agents to improve on their Information Communication Technology (ICT) skills and stop releasing Licensee Code to their subordinates who might eventually engage in hacking into their licence without their knowledge.
Ekekezie said that the customs management had treated a lot of cases of hacking and traced such to staff of the licensed customs agents.
She, however, assured ANLCA of quick feedback from the management to enable the service achieve its mandate of trade facilitation and combating smuggling activities in the country. (NAN)