Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala
Stakeholders in the maritime sector of the economy have continued to bicker over the six months extension of contracts for the three service providers at the nation’s seaports, airports and international borders.
While some said the extension of the contract was in order as the Customs High Command is not adequately prepared to take over the services of the service providers, many have maintained that it has succeeded in turning back the hand of the clock.
The three service providers' contracts were extended vide a letter dated December 31, 2012 and signed by the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Danladi Kifasi.
The letter with reference F10361/S.56/VA/491 and sent to the three service providers read inter alia: "I wish to inform you that the President has approved the extension of the Agreement dated January 1, 2006, between your company and the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) for the Provision, Installation, Operation and Management of X-Ray Scanning Equipment and Software for Inspection of goods. The agreement which is to expire on December 31, 2012, has been extended for a period of six months with effect from 1st January, 2013".
Kifasi directed the service providers to liaise with the Legal Unit of the Ministry of Finance "for the preparation and execution of the new agreement within one week of the date of this offer" even as he indicated that the service providers' lots would be rejigged.
A concerned Nigerian, Mr. Awwal Bello, however said the introduction of pre-arrival assessment report (PAAR) by Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) was a welcome development.
Describing it as the internal initiative by NCS, he said the policy as a perfect initiative by the giant revenue generating agency and it was very indispensable for the development of our economy through the cutting edge technology.
In a statement to THISDAY yesterday, Bello said: “Not only by making their work easy, but it would also make the entire exercise transparent. Because, before a cargo reaches the Nigerian Territorial water all its contents most have been assessed and valued, which makes the clearing process transparent and cost effective.
And with this, the issue of double charging would be eliminated automatically, which in turn helps the Government in areas of accountability and auditing. PAAR is a powerful risk assessment management which would be used for calculation of duty payable to the government through Nigeria Customs Service”
Continuing, Bello said: “The system will help while importing goods into Nigeria and to improve the efficiency of Customs clearance. It would also enhance border security and international trade facilitation. Therefore, PAAR system will replace the old method, known as Risk assessment and Destination inspection reports.
I therefore, make a citizenry call to the federal Government to adhere to this selfless initiative, as its worthy of implementation and the Agency should be supported in ramification to ensure its successful execution. This would boost our revenue generation profile. We should shone politics and personal interest in order to make this achievable; it is for the betterment of all not for an individual or group of individuals.
Economically, the money usually paid to Consultants for such services would be saved automatically. Moreover, we should learn to carry out our official responsibilities in globally acceptable modes of operandi ourselves”.
He called for the support of stakeholders in to ensure that NCS succeed in its quest to put PAAR in place.
He hinged his argument on the fact that it was not proper consulting our security to someone outside.
“It is in this regard the agency needs to be supported as it has shown enthusiasm to move forward to meet the global standard”, he added.
He also picked holes in the contracts of the service providers and the Federal Government, pointing out that the contact was not based on NCS business requirement and also not in line with international best practices on Custom reforms and modernisation as specified in Kyoto convention on harmonization and simplification trade.
“As it is today the activities of service provider out dated worldwide.
Duplication and multiple issuance of Risk Assessment Reports (RAR) on high FOB imports with clear intention to defraud Nigerian Government. This results to double charge and payment on single import.
Vulnerability of National data on security arising from scanning service providers (SSPs) hosting another database abroad.
Misclassification and gross under valuation of imports resulting in large volume demand notice and intervention by Nigeria Custom Service with many worse cases recorded by the agency”, he added