The Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Alhaji Dikko Inde Abdullahi, yesterday told participants at a seminar on “Business in Nigeria” organised by Financial Times and the NCS at Four Seasons Hotel, London that the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) regime introduced by his management team is aimed at facilitating trade in Nigeria.
Speaking during his keynote address at the one-day event, Dikko said PAAR allows for pre-arrival documentations and clearance of goods into Nigerian ports.
He said, “The launch of PAAR has helped to build stronger relationship with the business sector. By its configuration, importers and operators who have demonstrated high level of integrity in their declarations are flagged.
“To encourage them, 175 of them have been admitted into a new Fast Track system. These companies now enjoy special concessions like blue lane selection, inspection at owners premises and exclusive membership of the Customs Compliance Ambassadors Group.”
He said the NCS has attained a high level of modernization enough to “assure existing and potential investors in Nigeria, that we are indeed ready for business.”
He also said that the Nigeria Customs Service has successfully implemented a critical reform programme and repositioned itself for trade facilitation.
“As we all know, the growth of trade is critical to boosting economic development and poverty alleviation in developing economies. Its potential for job creation makes it a strategic component of President Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda in Nigeria.
“As a major regulatory agency of Government, Nigeria Customs Service therefore plays a very active role in stimulating the growth of trade in Nigeria and creating the conducive atmosphere necessary for investment in flow,” he stated.
He said the foundation for the giant strides being recorded in NCS was laid in 2009 when the journey towards its modernization started.
He said, “It all started during the days of Dr. Aganga as Minister of Finance and chairman of the Customs Board. With his clear understanding that a modern Customs Administration is necessary for economic growth, he helped to lay a strong foundation for the reforms that re-positioned Customs in Nigeria.
“We were actually at a cross road in 2009 with a workforce that was highly demoralized, poorly remunerated and ill-equipped. We embarked on a 6-point Agenda of action to prepare the Customs for a full takeover of international Trade Management from Inspection Companies in line with the provisions of the Bali Agreement on Trade Facilitation.
“The plan addressed the issue of capacity building for officers and men, improving the welfare of the workforce, automation of processes and system upgrade, building integrity and transparency into our system, partnerships with other Customs administrations and the Private sector, and a communication and outreach program for active stakeholder engagement.”
He said NCS now provides timely, authoritative and accurate information about Nigerian trade with the rest of the world through the Nigerian Trade Portal.
The interactive portal, he said, offers online advisory related to Customs tariff classification and valuation, tax base, Nigerian regulatory agencies, customs brokers, currency conversion tools and lots more.
Also speaking at the event, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, commended Dikko for instituting reforms in the Nigeria Customs Service. He said the NCS management should continue to lay emphasis on trade facilitation and promote trade in the country.
Various speakers at the event commended the NCS management for the giant strides recorded in the Service over the past four years and introduction of the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR).