The government of a country needs funds in order to provide the basic amenities of life the citizenry. It is in view of this that taxes are imposed by governments globally to generate funds that will be deployed in the provision of these amenities.
Government equally collects duties to fulfill its obligations to the people. For governments all over the world to ensure that monies from duties, notably excise, export and import, are properly collected and accounted for, they set up Customs organisations to collect these.
It is in this regard that the Nigerian government established the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and empowered it with the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) of 1958.
The NCS, apart from revenue collection, is equally saddled with the responsibility of facilitating trade i.e to ensure the seamless movement of cargoes at all entry points.
The Service is equally given the responsibility to secure the country, by checkmating the importation of items that will threaten the nation’s security.
It is, however, sad to note that the existence of the NCS has shifted from the other three functions mentioned to a revenue collector only.
Why we do not query the collection of revenue by Customs? It is so simply because this money is needed by government to provide what is needed by the citizenry. We are, however, worried about the way government now sees the Service as an organisation only existing for revenue collection, or generation of revenue as the case may be.
For the past three years, government’s emphasis has been on how much the Service can generate into its coffers.
Government over the years has been giving the Service a yearly revenue target, but, within the last three years, the annual revenue target given to the NCS has been on the increasing side.
We recall that in 2010 the revenue target given to the NCS was a little above N500billion, a little above N600billion in 2011, and now in 2012, the target is a little above N1trillion.
There is no doubt about the fact that the Service at the end of every year had boasted of always surpassing the revenue target and for this is routinely applauded. Unfortunately, the Service has been silent on its other core functions.
We also recall that that when the Federal Government gave the 2012 revenue target of N800brillion to the Service, there was no argument from the top brass, rather the Comptroller-General of Customs, Alhaji Dikko Inde Abdullahi, reportedly stated that his own target is N1.2trillion.
The N1.2trillion may be realistic but, in order to realise this, the NCS brought out benchmarks for certain cargoes, which is generating a lot of controversies with accusations of insincerity by stakeholders.
While we do not want to go into the controversies generated by the introduction of benchmarks, it will not be out of place to say that the driving force for the Service is now revenue collection. This certainly does not mean well for the country. Government should de-emphasise the collection of revenue by not giving the Service an annual revenue target.
Government needs to equally encourage the Service to focus on other aspects of its responsibilities, because the other duties of Customs are critical to the country’s wellbeing.
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