Customs CG visits Cotonou, warns stakeholders of harmful practices

Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs (CGC) Col. Hameed Ali Rtd. has warned stakeholders to desist from nasty practices that impede trade facilitation across international borders advising that everybody involved in the business of trading across West African countries must read the ETLS protocol and understand the laws as it affects their trade, abide by it and should feel free to challenge Customs whenever they feel marginalized.

The CGC also reiterated the need to review existing memorandum of understanding (MOUs) and agreements, with a view to bringing them in conformity with internationally accepted standards in trade, between countries. He emphasized that both countries must address issues of dumping and smuggling across our borders.

Col. Ali spoke while on a working to the Republic of Benin last Wednesday. The interactive visit was designed to address the bottlenecks in the trade relationship between the two countries and to find lasting solution to numerous challenges including the commonly traded items like rice, vehicles, as well as frequent complaints arising from earlier meetings by maritime stakeholders.

While also deploring the activities of cross border looters, Ali lamented the loss of seventy Nigerian Custom officers who died while combating smuggling within Idi Iroko and Seme areas, highlighting that the biggest problem confronting Nigeria Customs service is the lack of compliance on the part of traders, especially those who make dishonest declarations.

He promised to link up with his colleagues in other security agencies to review downwards the number of the agencies on the trade route so as to facilitate trade, without compromising security of commodities as well as the country.

Among stakeholders in attendance was the President of Association of Nigeria Licensed Custom Agents (ANCLA).  In an address,  Shittu drew the attention of the Nigeria Customs Boss to the expensive nature of doing business across the Benin-Nigeria border.  “Cost of transiting ETLS (Ecowas Goods) from Ghana to Lagos needs to be checked, to provide room for trade facilitation and trade competitions within the West African sub region. That is, a truck of ETLS cargo from Ghana pays CFA300,000 to exit Ghana into Togo and pays CFA400,000 to exit Togo into Benin Republic. The same truck will be charged CFA2,800,000 to ext Benin Republic into Nigeria, for reasons best known to Benin Republic Customs,” he declared.

Shittu said the multiplicity of security agencies are further aggravating the expenses incurred in transiting cargoes across the borders, demanding a review of these agencies drastically downwards.

He also pleaded with the CGC to intervene on the controversial exchange rate issue as regards importation which has highly depressed importers and clearing agents in Nigeria.  He noted that imports are fast drying up because of the unfriendly policy while robbing Government of much needed revenue and threatening thousands of jobs.

On the issue of DTI closures, the ANLCA President urged the CGC to hasten the process of allocating passwords to 2016 renewed Customs licenses, as most jobs have been left hanging, with the abrupt shutdown again of commercial DTIs. He said that the private DTIs will ensure that particular/specific licenses are immediately held responsible, whenever infractions occur.

Rice Millers were not left out on the interactive visit. Rice Millers Association’s AlhajaKaramatouIbironke demanded to know the legal conditions for the exportation of Rice to Nigeria, so they can adopt it.  Col. Ali however said that though Rice has been banned through the land borders, the only entry point for such commodity is through the seaports and proper documentations will be required for such transaction.

Alaba Lawson-Chairperson of NACCIMA, Ogun State branch on his own wondered how Rice gets into Nigeria massively, despite its ban through land borders, urging Customs to do more to curtail the trend or find a way to accommodate it, in order to generate revenue for the government.

Earlier in her opening remarks, Madam Beatrice, Benin Republic’s charge de Affairs, said  the purpose of the interactive session was to seek ways and means of solving the numerous problems affecting the free flow of trade between Benin Republic and Nigeria. She acknowledged receipt by the embassy of series of complains by traders/stakeholders and she hoping that with the CGC visit, a lasting solution would be found.

 



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