The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), has lampooned the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) over alleged neglect of its core functions by running after revenue target thereby making trade facilitation difficult at the ports.
In a chat with Shipping Position Daily correspondent, the Director General of LCCI, Mr MudaYussuf, berated the service for working contrary to its avowed commitment to trade facilitation difficult.
He argued that, "one of the biggest challenges we had in the last four years of the last administration is the customs, because the customs is running after revenue; they practically abandoned the responsibility of trade facilitation, so in the process of making revenue target they make things very difficult for people who are importing through our ports.
"They create problem with valuation especially with arbitrary value on some products
"Then in terms of facilities, our scanners have not worked for over two years with customs still carrying out manual physical examination, so its unbecoming of a country like Nigeria even with the volume of imports to still carry out manual examination of cargo is demeaning of a country like Nigeria.
"Also setting up of different units, Strike Force, FOU; all those units of the customs were really a big headache.
"And once people begin to have that experience, it affects those people who are also operators in the maritime sector because less business will come in”, he said.
He added that, "if we say the cost of doing business is high, which is why we are losing cargoes to neighbouring countries, let the government look at the cost element. Let's bring it down
"If the Customs is given too much headache in terms of valuation in terms of all sort of documentation, let us sort it out, let get them to do what they should do to make the port more investment friendly.
"Let them not focus on revenue target alone, they should also look at the other leg of their responsibility which is trade facilitation
"The government must do more to tackle this menace inhibiting the maritime sector.”, he concluded.
The LCCI DG informed that the maritime sector was bedeviled with other challenges raging from poor port roads to turnaround time of cargoes
"The Apapa traffic situation was a very big problem to the sector, many have lost businesses and that affected the freight forwarders, it has affected the haulage businesses because the turn around time of cargoes took longer, it affected shipping companies , it has affected the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) as well.
"You will discover that their revenue reduced, it affected the terminal operators, it affected customs revenue, it affected industrialist because many of their raw materials could not get out on time.
"So all the key stakeholders in the maritime sector were negatively impacted over these four years by the situation in Apapa, and unless we do things in a very fundamental way that problem will continue to be there
"It is more than just given directives or orders and you think everything will come back to normal.
"The other challenge facing the sector is that of our fiscal policy, our tariffs are generally too high and when importers rate are high, it leads to smuggling, which affects those who are doing legitimate business in the maritime sector, whereby those who are doing illegitimate business are enriched while those who are doing legitimate business are impoverish.
"Also it has also led to diversion of cargoes to other neighboring countries which meant that all our maritime investors or operators are losing business to the neighboring countries, so our trade policies generally is affecting trade, when the government ban things they should not ban, the 41 items banned, our foreign exchange, all these things had adverse effect on the maritime sector in the last four years.