The Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) have urged importers to take advantage of the automated Import Duty Exemption Certificate (IDEC) as part of measures to enhance ease of doing business at the nation’s ports.
Speaking at the second phase of the sensitization seminar in Lagos on Wednesday, Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, stated that the new automated platform, among other benefits would reduce the amount of time for processing import duty exemption request, promote transparency and eliminate undue human interference as well as other challenges associated with the manual process.
Represented by the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry, Aliyu Ahmed, the Minister noted that with the scope of request for import duty waiver expanding, there is no better time than now to have in place modern technology to drive the administration and have a proper handling on import duty concession.
Ahmed added that the automated process, which is in line with the Ministry’s Strategic Revenue Growth Initiative (SRG), has led to improvement in the revenue profile of the government by blocking leakages; end financial losses associated with the process, standardise and simplify the process for all waiver requests.
“Up until March 2020, we processed the grant of IDEC incentives manually. This process was quite cumbersome, tedious, time consuming, and was beset with undue human interference, with its attendant challenges.
“But with the automated portal, we have been able to improve the process efficiency and accountability by drastically improving process turnaround time from about 60 days to about a week. So even for the importers, this is a huge boost because it means, if they start processing on time, they will be able to come back and quickly clear their goods before they start incurring demurrage. So it is a win-win for everyone.
“It would also relieve the Nigeria Customs Service because before now, there were all sorts of letters unfortunately flying all around that nobody could verify the authenticity. Some of the letters were validly written by the Ministry of Finance while others were clowned by elements that are bent on sabotaging the system for their selfish interest. So IDEC has come in at the right time,” she said.
While acknowledging that there might be some teething challenges at the initial stage, Ahmed appealed to the importers to work with the Ministry and Customs to ensure the challenges are resolved on time rather than castigate the entire automated process.
Also speaking at the event, Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali, who was represented by the Zonal Coordinator, in charge of Zone ‘A’ Katherine Ekekezie, said the new platform will eradicate abuse of import duty exemption and forgery of signatures by unscrupulous elements in the import business.
Ali said the Federal Government is committed to achieving a more viable economy but over the years, some importers have abused the opportunities created for them to thrive through the import duty exemption.
“Over the years, people have abused the import duty exemption. We used to see a lot of fake waivers coming from the ministry but this automation will erase all that and there will be ease of doing business,” he said.
While enjoining importers to ensure they apply and begin the process of obtaining waivers for their goods on time to avoid delays, Ali assured that the NCS, as an institution responsible for the implementation of the policy, would ensure the success of the new digitalised platform.
“The NCS has since automated the process of capturing IDEC through the NICIS 11 platform. So as you obtain your IDEC, you just key it into our platform and you can be sure you get prompt service on our part,” Ali assured.
The first phase of the sensitisation seminar began in Kano while the third and final phase will take place in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.