Stakeholders Blame Declining Revenue from Ports on Customs Seizures

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Eromosele Abiodun

Freight Forwarders in the country have blamed the declining federal government’s revenue from the ports on seizure of goods by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) over minor defaults.

The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) stated this while calling on the customs authorities to avoid a total shot-down of revenue from the ports.

National Publicity Secretary, Stanley Ezenga, who spoke on behalf of NAGAFF, emphasised that trade related matters in breach of extant laws must not be treated by extreme punishment of seizure but rather, “a process that shall enhance corrective measures and penalty thereto in form of additional duty payment to serve as deterrent.”

He said: “It is the opinion of NAGAFF that the Government is aware that importers and exporters will always want to cheat with a view to maximising profit and accordingly provisions are made for corrective measures and penalty thereto. The import guidelines 2006 as amended and Customs laws provided for such remedy except in extreme cases of breaches including banned goods. Seizure of trade goods over minor defaults should be an extreme case of default because a time shall come when the Customs will not have any cargo to seize or collect revenue from. We sincerely believe that the way forward to mitigate these trade infractions is for the Customs examiners to perform proper Customs examination of laden containers,” NAGAFF said.

The freight forwarders added: “Without prejudice to the relevant sections of Customs laws bothering on untrue declaration of imports for customs purposes, there is the urgent need for the NCS personnel to realise that the only way the Nigerian importers can be compliant to import regulations is a situation whereby they shall be asked not to pay customs duty and other charges anymore. It is written in the Bible that tax collectors are never liked by the people so long as payment of tax is concerned.

“In the opinion of NAGAFF, it is a fact that the import policy under destination inspection and the relevance of Pre- Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR), which is advisory, are strategic to customs operations. In this regard, the importance of proper Customs examination of laden containers should be the arbiter to mitigate loss of revenue due to the government. Customs examination is so simple and unambiguous to actualise. In so far as we cannot disassociate the government operatives from the corrupt society, it is our view that there should be an element of loyalty to the authority which the operatives agreed to serve, respect and protect.”

This, they added, is very critical to the revenue functions of the customs organisation and security of the Nigerian state.

“Among others is for Customs to engage the trading public through sensitisation on the ills of non-compliance with import regulations and the consequences of smuggling to the economy. We, in NAGAFF, shall continue to advocate that a holistic approach to resolving these avoidable seizures should be that importers and exporters must be made to build up integrity in their declarations for customs purposes. And on the part of the customs examiners, the need for proper customs examination cannot be overemphasised, “they said.

The group added that the carnage of avoidable seizures of trade goods has to stop in the interest of the economy and the revenue collection functions of the service.

“We want to reiterate that laws are made for man and not man for the law. Any law that brings hardship in its essence is a bad law and should be set aside. Freight forwarders are also expected to embrace professionalism in carrying out their statutory duties in the Customs ports and approved borders. Let us join hands with the Nigeria Customs Service to build a sustainable economy in our country, while advising that seizure of trade goods does not add any value to the primary duty of revenue functions of the service,” they stressed.