Dr. Boniface Aniebonam (Founder NAGAFF)
The first thing for us is to understand the concept of trade facilitation; it is simply to discuss matters bordering on processes and procedures. A process that is one stop measure, simplification of rules of engagement, making genuine declaration for customs purposes, in other words the customs must do more in the area of education and enlightenment. Unfortunately, people are seen to understand trade facilitation to mean anything in the name of trade facilitation. When you breach laws in relation to customs procedures, you will not expect customs to facilitate trade because the primary responsibility has to do with revenue generation to the federal government as their core function, anti smuggling operations. So if you want to understand trade facilitation, then you need to be compliant to import regulations, if you are not then drop that idea. They need to simplify processes, make it to be easy, simple and paperless where people can interact and solve their trade disputes. So as for the revenue target that is neither here nor there, it is good to give somebody an outlay and the expectations of what should be the point looking at cargo throughput. Revenue collections are not a do or die affair, it is predicated upon compliance and that has to do with the rate of the duty of the commodity in question and then proper declaration.
Barrister Emeka Akabogu (Stakeholder)
I think the answer to that question will also relate to the saying of the inefficiency in the clearance processes has thereby frustrates trade facilitation. If you are able to identify the cause of the inefficiency or rather the more prominent ones amongst them, if customs were able to address those things then it will actually go a long way in enhancing trade facilitation. Now if you look at it you will see that one of the key issues will relate to engagement with traders have failed because it seems that many of the challenges including corruption by customs officials arise from situation were traders do not declare properly. If you do not declare truthfully it opens a window for unscrupulous customs officials to delay by engaging in transactional negotiations with these importers. So, customs has to find ways both through soft means and also through hard line measures to ensure that importers make truthful declarations. When you have truthful declaration, chances are there that trade will be facilitated because there won’t be undue delays. Customs can do this by engaging with importers on the need for truthful declarations and from the hard line angle when some of them are not responding Customs can ensure that they enforce the provisions of the Customs and Exercise Management Act (CEMA) relating to penalty on under declaration and false declaration. So we have penalty in the act which can take care of it effectively.
Rev Jonathan Nicole (SALS)
In the first place, there is nothing like trade facilitation, ease of doing business doesn’t exist, it is just a mantra, it is not practicable, it is not working. I am just saying it is unprofessional for government to give them target; giving them target makes it totally unprofessional. How can you make a budget when you don’t have a cargo coming under you? The second point is that, now that they know they can generate money why have they not been generating so much money right from time before the government started giving them target. The issue of target is not professional it won’t facilitate trade because they will not start using force to, it is no longer the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) it is will now be the Nigerian Customs Force.
Dr. Frank Ukor (AREFFN)
Well, it is the government policy that will determine if the customs will facilitate trade or not. If the government place ban on almost everything, then how can the customs meet their target. The government should remove bans on all these goods coming into the country, then the customs will be able to meet to their target. The government needs to change their policy so that the customs will be able to meet their target.
Kayode Farinto (Vice President ANLCA)
The issue of trade facilitation and meeting revenue target are two parallel lines that would never meet You cannot be pursuing the target that is given to you or self imposed target and want to facilitate trade, , it is not possible, this is because while you are pursuing the self imposed target or whatever target that is given to you , NCS are in the habit of arm-twisting Nigeria importers ; giving frivolous debit notes, delayed trade unnecessarily, refusal to refuse trade and interception of goods after release. So are they actually facilitating trade?
Mazi Festus Ukwu (Stakeholder)
Since government have put up a N2 trillion target for the NCS, we can see that the kind of alert and duty they put on goods now without looking at the real cost of the items is very outrageous, with that many importers will go to sleep, so how can they facilitate trade with that? Coupled with the 41 items ban, so how many goods are coming in, and yet they put heavy duty on the few goods that come in, so there is no way they can facilitate trade with government setting target for them.
Pius Ujubounu (Stakeholder)
Customs is an agency of the Federal Government and the agency of government will only be a reflection of the kind of government they represent, if the government is giving them revenue target and at the same time expect them to carry out the trade facilitation agreement, then it will be difficult.