Finding real solutions to trade facilitation

Good governance exists only when there is synergy and symbolic relationship between the government and the governed – the public and private sectors.
When there is a disconnect between both sectors, there is bad governance. There is usually a disconnect when members of the respective sectors view each other’s camp with suspicion, adopting the them-and-us attitude in their inter-sectoral dealings.
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Finance, is a vital component of Nigeria’s public sector, executing the critical briefs of revenue generation and promoting the integrity of the nation’s security.

Revenue generation does not make friends for institutions saddled with this task. Consequently, the Nigeria Customs has not been the beloved of importers from whose coffers the bulk of the collections by the Service come from, bearing in mind that the Nigerian economy is heavily imports-dependent.
Therefore, for too long, there has existed a disconnect between the Nigeria Customs and importers on the one hand, Customs and Customs agents on the other, and also between importers and their agents on yet another. This confusing state-of-affairs has, of course, impacted negatively on trade facilitation over time.
However, Comptroller-General of Customs Dikko Inde Abdullahi recently took a bold initiative to end the season of angst, when, at the maiden town hall meeting he held with importers in Lagos, he declared that a Joint Monitoring and Compliance Committee be constituted. The Customs chief announced at the meeting that the committee would comprise of five importers, three Customs agents, four Customs Area Controllers (CAC) and a journalist.

The committee had held its inaugural meeting monthly meeting, which was presided over by the then Customs Zone ‘A’ Zonal Coordinator, Assistant Comptroller-General Mohammed Othman, at the Zonal Headquarters, Harvey Road, Yaba, Lagos. The second meeting to date and at the same was moderated by Assistant Comptroller-General Victor Osita Gbemudu, who succeeded newly-retired Othman at the Zonal Headquarters.
The very idea of establishing this nascent body is revolutionary, and it is expected of all its members to do their utmost for it to realise its objectives, including:
• Helping to address and bringing to the notice of the Customs Management challenges faced by importers in the cargo clearance process;
• Helping to remove bottlenecks in trade facilitation;
• Ensuring that importers give honest declarations and pay requisite duties on their consignments;
• Strengthening the evolving synergy between the Customs and importers.
Inevitably, when these objectives are attained and institutionalised, the business operating environment becomes most conducive and a win-win-situation becomes for all.

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