Founding President of the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping and a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba, has advised the Federal Government to merge the Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigerian Immigration Service to strengthen the country’s trade policy.
In an article titled ‘Avoiding or mitigating recession in post-COVID Nigeria’, Agbakoba suggested that the National Customs and Border Enforcement Services should be established to replace both agencies.
He said the merging of services such as Customs and Immigration will help to avoid duplication of roles and proliferation of agencies at the borders.
“Nigeria has no trade policy which is why it is a major dumping ground for foreign goods. We spend billions of dollars importing basic food commodities that can grow locally. We must grow what we eat. We need to reverse this with robust trade policy.
“It is also important to enact legislation that will support the recently established Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiation (NOTN). It is crucial that the office is elevated to ministerial level. We need to establish a National Customs and Border Enforcement Services.
“This border enforcement services will need new legislation to merge immigration and customs services. The border enforcement service will replicate the US Customs and Border Enforcement Agency.
“To comply with the ECOWAS protocol and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), the border closure policy should be replaced by a border enforcement policy. Strong trade policy will help create millions of jobs, grow local industries and expand the economy,” he said.
Both agencies carry out border surveillance and security functions although immigration issues travel documents and residence permits while customs issues import and export documents to traders.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) also suggested that some federal assets should be converted to cash as some of those assets have not been in use.
“Additionally, an inventory of government assets should be created as we have many wasting assets that can be converted to cash,” Agbakoba said.
“Using the abandoned federal government secretariat in Lagos as the index case, informed valuers believe it has a forced market value of N100 billion. This can build the East-West Road.
“Abandoned projects abound, Ajaokuta Steel, Aladja Steel, the Newsprint at Iwopin, the various steel rolling mills around the country, the Onitsha Port, etc.
“It is believed these assets are worth at least N15 trillion yet untapped. These wasting assets, if sold will boost fiscal policy immensely.”
The lawyer said there is a need to carefully plan the economy following the reduction in funds generated from crude oil, Nigeria’s major source of revenue.
Agbakoba also acknowledged that corruption is a leading cause of high governance cost, saying it is important to review anti-corruption strategies.
He said Nigeria is now running a deficit budget in conjunction with massive borrowings, adding that the country needs to diversify its economy, else it “will continue to borrow to the point where it becomes unsustainable”.
Areas of diversification identified in the article include agriculture, transportation, aviation, information communication technology (ICT) and trade policy.
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