Zonal Coordinator in charge of Zone ‘A’ of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Assistant Comptroller General Charles Edike has said that it is beyond the powers of the Service to review the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) and harmonize it with the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) act.
Edike stated this on Tuesday when he visited the headquarters of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) in Lagos.
Speaking against the backdrop of the clamour by the association on the need for Customs to harmonize CEMA and CRFFN act to allow for both licensing of individual freight forwarders and corporate bodies, Edike told members of the association that the request for such harmonization could only be approved by the Presidency and National assembly.
He urged the agents not to drag the Service into what he referred to as association ‘politics’.
According to him, Customs and CRFFN are agencies of the federal government hence it cannot be against the success of the Council in its mandate to professional the freight forwarding practice.
He said, “We would not want to be dragged into association politics but the laws governing the use of license by people doing business with Customs are found in CEMA 156 and 158. If you want a change, the place you will go to is the presidency or the national assembly. Now that you are aware of these regulations that guide our operations, if you want a change, it can’t be from the zonal coordinator, not even with the CGC. Go to the national assembly and if they change it for you, fine, we will operate and comply.”
While reacting to complaints that customs is more concerned about generating revenue while it focused less on trade facilitation, Edike said the Service will not facilitate trade if it will jeopardise national security.
According to him, while the Service needed the collaboration of the association to increase its revenue generation, it will only facilitate legitimate trade to the extent that the importer or agents allows it.
“National security is very important and if agents allow us then trade will be facilitated. You cannot go to equity with dirty hands. If your hands are clean, then you can come in with equity but when your hands are not clean, you can’t come in with equity. If a declaration by agent is straight forward, trade will be facilitated but when there are discrepancies we will call you back,” he said.
In his remarks, founder of NAGAFF, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam maintained that a system whereby Customs licenses are issued to corporate entities instead of individuals poses a lot of risk to customs revenue generation.
He noted that the major challenge faced by Customs in its operation is lack of compliance which he said could only be achieved with the cooperation of individual practitioners.
“The truth of the matter is that if Customs wants to build a productive service, then it must deal with individual practitioners. We know how these so-called license customs agents obtain their license. Foreigners are involved, serving customs officers have licenses and they use it anywhere they are working.
“It is only an individual that can be referred to as a professional. You can’t call a corporate body a professional. The problem customs is having today is compliance and this has to be done by an individual,” he said.
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