Mixed Reactions Trail New Customs Area Command

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Eromosele Abiodun

Importers and clearing agents have expressed divergent views about the recent unbundling of some existing Area Commands and the creation of eight new ones by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).

Speaking to THISDAY on the development, the Association of Nigerian licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) applauded the move while the Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) were opposed it.

Vice President of ANLCA, Kayode Farinto, said the creation of the Area Commands would bring customs service closer to importers, facilitate cargo clearance and put an end to unnecessary bureaucracies.

According to him, “It is a welcome development. It is a way of simplifying work and facilitate trade. With this development, the issue of bureaucracy will be reduced. Nobody will be waiting for one comptroller to append his signature to a document in Apapa when his office is at Ikeja.

“The Customs is trying to decentralise their work. It should facilitate cargo clearance, reduce bureaucracy in customs operation. The old structure was good but the time has come for things to change for the better.”

On his part, President of NAGAFF, Mr Increase Uche, who also described the move as a welcome development, said it was most likely that the customs made the move because of the insecurity in the country.

“This, for instance, will give many states across the country autonomy and reduce the distance people had to cover to get things done. It will help to check smuggling as border states will now have commands specifically dedicated to their services. Before now, Kano and Gigawa were under a command but that has changed now with this development. This will bring about effectiveness in the operation of officers; the command comptroller will be closer to the people.

“Part of the tools for trade facilitating is ensuring that legitimate trade is carved out. Facilitating trade is not allowing cargo to pass through unapproved routs. The insecurity in the country is as a result of the porosity of our land borders. For us, what must have informed this development is the issue of insecurity and in order for customs to become more effective in their operation, “he said.

However, the National President of NCMDLCA, Lucky Amiwero, urged the customs to reforms its procedures and processes.
He said: “There concern now should be how to enhance their procedure, processes, capacity, scanners, conventions customs legal notices reordering. The process that are not being complied with are many, our procedures are mundane and do not comply with international best practices.

“They should not be concerned now with the creation of new Area Commands but how to operate in the era of ACFTA. They will be in trouble when the agreement takes off; the challenges are going to be much.

“It is frightening because Nigeria itself is a market within Africa, we have a very large market, but we don’t have the structures to be able to take care of our market. When you are talking about free trade, you are talking about liberalising your trade to enable other people come into your market.”

The NCS had in a circular signed by the Deputy Comptroller General of Customs (DCG) in charge of Finance, Administration and Technical Services (FATS), Aminu Dangaladima recently, approved the unbundling of some existing Area Commands and the creation of eight new ones.

The NCS said the approval for the unbundling and creation of the eight Area Commands was granted at the 50th Regular Meeting of the Nigeria Customs Service Board held on Tuesday 21st May 2019.

The Area Commands created include the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Area Command from the Muritala Muhammed Airport Command with headquarters at the MMIA; the Ogun II Area Command from Ogun Area Command with headquarters at Abeokuta; North Eastern Marine Command from Eastern Marine Command with headquarters at Makurdi and Kaduna Area Command from Kaduna/Kastsina Area Command with headquarters at Kaduna.

Others are Kebbi Area Command from Sokoto/Kebbi/Zamfara Area Command with headquarters at Birnin- Kebbi; Kwara Area Command from Niger/Kwara/Kogi Area Command with headquarters at Ilorin; North Western Marine Command from Western Marine Command with headquarters at Lokoja and Port Harcourt Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone (FTZ) Area Command from PHC 1 Area Command with headquarters at Onne.