April 16, 2024

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Relevance of zonal commands in the administration and operations of the Nigeria Customs Service: Matters Arising

By Dr. Boniface Aniebonam

It is quite refreshing to note under the matra of a renewed hope for Nigeria, the Nigeria Customs Service is advocating a devolution of powers and authority of the Service structure to enhance the zonal and area commands productivity.

Before 2004, it is on record that the zonal commands of the Nigeria Customs Service were effectively involved in the proper management and administration of the Customs and Excise Management Act. How and what led to the erosion of such powers of the zonal commands are better explained by the Customs Board.

Whatever might be the reason or reasons for such anti-trade action is definitely contrary to the new mantra of renewed hope for Nigeria.

Great to note from the address delivered by the Comptroller General of Customs Mr. Wale Adeniyi at Ogun 1 during his official visitation some months ago, he did emphasize on the necessity to rejig the service structure to enhance operational and administrative relevances of the zones and area commands of the Service. Regret the level of waste of public funds at the zonal commands under the leadership of an Assistant Comptroller General of Customs, Comptrollers, Deputy Comptrollers and all other ranks idling and sleeping for lack of any meaningful work to do, aside the monthly meetings of the area comptrollers of the zones.

Regret to note that freight forwarding practitioners and their principals have suffered so much including loss of lives on the federal highways going to Abuja over a minor trade dispute that should ordinarily be resolved at the zonal commands.

Today it is obvious that a Daniel has come to judgment to taking a wrong decision than taking none. This is because successive administrations in Customs management did not have the courage to reverse itself over inappropriate action. In the opinion of NAGAFF, it is likely an action taken in bad faith and systemic in corruption act.

We the members of NAGAFF are, indeed, hopefully that the essence of giving opportunity to core professional officers of the service shall be realized. It has been a terrible experience in our business to work with people who had little or no knowledge of Customs matters. Customs related matters are highly technical and do require a professional with requisite knowledge to be on the driver’s seat.

This is aside of the humiliation that an officer cannot aspire to the highest position in an organisation he or she may have served for 35yrs. Indeed a nightmare and quite frustrating to officers and men of the service. Our appreciation to the wise men and women of the National Assembly to have reversed the ugly situation whereby a non commissioned officer of the service could assume such a highly technical professional calling.

In line with the emerging new order, we appreciate the courage of the leadership of the Nigeria Customs Service to disband the CGC Strikeforce, hoping that border drill joint operation along the federal highways should be disbanded equally after due consultation with the office of the National Security Adviser.

Internal trade in Nigeria should be allowed to be more seamless than the present situation of unnecessary checkpoints. The word border drill joint patrol suggests that the team should be found around the Nigeria borders other than city and federal highways.

It is our hope that with rejiging the administrative structure of the service to enhance zonal and area commands productivity, the much talked about trade alerts of Customs headquarters shall subside. NAGAFF regrets to note that every trade alert issued from NCS HQRS must be resolved with additional Customs duty irrespective of compliance level. This is not good for trade purposes and it’s a fact that the service has the responsibility to encourage trade.

We, therefore, draw the attention of the Comptroller General of Customs to this regard. The urgent need to trust area Comptrollers and operational officers cannot be overemphasised and by the grace of God the zonal commands shall come on stream to deal with such trade disputes locally. We urge the CGC to fast forward the process for the good of the service functions and those who come to transact businesses with the customs.

Meanwhile we do advise and encourage freight forwarding practitioners to take advantage of the lifting of ban on the 43 items to ensure full compliance to proper declaration for Customs purposes. Non compliance attitude to Customs operations is detrimental to trade rules and regulations and the consequences are not usually palatable. Therefore, we must stop unprofessional conduct in carrying out our responsibilities in the Customs ports and borders. We must emphasize that the PAAR ruling center in Abuja statutorily delivers its mandate based on information uploaded from the authorized banks which was supplied.

Therefore to the contrary of items uploaded, which Customs examination shall reveal it means that such a trader is not an honest declarant and the consequences are very high in revenue collection responsibility including seizure of such an import by the customs.

Let’s join hands with the Nigeria Customs Service to make Nigeria great again. We must realise that trade is the epicenter of a nation’s economy.

Dr. Boniface Aniebonam is the founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF).

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