A maritime lawyer, Mr. Emeka Akabogu, has called on the federal government to implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) commitments which according to him, are under the purview of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
Akabogu who said this in a chat with Shipping Position Daily in Apapa last week reiterated that if the TFA are fully implemented, it will go a long way in facilitating trade.
He explained tht,“what I will consider to be the most important measure they (Customs) should take to enhance trade facilitation is actually to identify and fully implement those commitments that Nigeria has made under the trade facilitation agreement which are directly under the purview of the customs. So Nigeria I think in 2013 or 2014 submitted a commitment to World Trade Organization (WTO) for trade facilitation agreement”
“And in 2017 Nigeria eventually ratified the trade facilitation agreement. So by ratifying it Nigeria is now bond to implement those commitments and there are some of those agreements under the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) which are under the direct purview of the customs. And if we are able to implement them then it will go a long way in enhancing trade facilitation”
He however charged the Customs to separate the release of cargoes from the final determination of duties, a move which according to him will ensure that the procedures are clearer.
“I will mention one or two of those commitments and one of them is that the customs has to ensure that the separate release of cargos from final determinations of customs duties and rates. They should be two separate bodies in the process they should be separated completely so that you don’t mix them up. Then it ensures that the procedures are clearer and a bit more automatic as opposed to being largely manual”
According to him, “Another way of facilitating trade will be either by initiating or supporting policies which will make compliance easier for importers. I am talking about policies such as high or unreasonable rate of duties for some categories of importers like vehicles for instance”
Akabogu blamed the high rate of under declaration on uncompetitive duties.
“In some cases, you find out that the under declaration or other means of compromising the system are as a result of the unreasonable and uncompetitive rate of duties. So if customs support or initiate advocacy to review those rates it will help in obviously ensuring that compliance improves and if it improves trade facilitation will improve”
“Because in terms of volume, the value of what is coming into the country compared to the actual some in terms of customs duty the gap is quite wide. Because a lot is not declared and a lot comes through other means but if even half of what comes in is properly declared and go into the record book you will see that this revenue target which we are talking about will suddenly be multiplied by wide dimension”, he concluded.