The Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are an integral part of the Nigerian economy and therefore should be subjected to the same rules that apply to other economic players. Otherwise, they could become a major source of distortions in the economy. A discriminatory import duty may create incentives for imports by the MDAs to the detriment of locally produced goods. If there is a strategic decision to give tariff concessions to specific sectors, then all players in the sector should have access to such concessions, whether they are in private or public sectors. Best practice principles in economic management demands that a level playing field should be created for all players in the economic space. Import duty waiver or tariff concession is not a bad idea in itself. What is important is that it should not be selective or discriminatory, and it should be targeted at sectors or products that are strategic from an economic, social or security perspectives. There should be a consensus by policy makers on the choice of such sectors. Meanwhile, we should not over emphasize the revenue objectives of the Nigeria Customs Service. Trade facilitation and Economic Development objectives are as important as the revenue generation. It is important for policy makers to realise this. The reality currently is that the revenue objective takes precedence over.
Trade facilitation role of the Nigeria Customs Service. Revenue has become the key performance indicator for the customs. This mindset is detrimental to the progress of the economy and needs to be corrected.
This is not new because most of the MDAs evade payment of taxes and duties. Most of the vehicles used by the government agencies don’t pay duties because the contractors that clear the vehicles and equipment present them as under government acquisition thereby evading payment of whatsoever. Once the vehicle’s plate number has FGN on it, then no Police officer or Customs agents stop to check for necessary documents. It is purely criminal that government agencies who are saddled with responsibilities among other things would be the ones breaching the rules and regulations. Where do government get money to run the country? It is from duties and taxes. I am so sure during the planning of the budget for vehicles and equipment, the money would have been incorporated. The DGs and MDs of these agencies should be held accountable and if found guilty, should face the wrath of the law and be prosecuted.
These agencies who bring in things have been given the order by the President and they have the right not to pay the duties. The MDAs cannot evade duties because they would have gotten concession from somewhere. The Comptroller-General of Customs by law does not have the authority to speak on evasion of duties by these agencies. It is only the Minister of Finance that can speak on such issue. Except if Customs thinks they are evading duties based on fraudulent activities but if it is based on government concession, then he does not have the power and I would advise that he limits himself to the power he has in order not to run into problems in future. No government in the world operates without concession. Government is not duty bound to be collecting duties and frustrating industries, like what is happening. It is not about revenue, it about how you build your industry and that is what economic mishap is all about. Customs must change the way they are looking at duty collection and it must be backed up with serious government concessions.
Customs has a law backing them to invade anywhere that is suspected to have prohibited items. I do not think anyone should be above the law; even the President and the ministries of the government. Rather they should serve as examples for the citizens and not the other way round. No agency should hide under the government and import things without paying duties and taxes. If this is allowed, then everyone will decide to import things into the country with the help of these agencies. I expect the President not to keep mum on this because this is where the government make revenue from.
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