Mixed reactions trail Customs’ N1.4trn target

Following the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) declaration of its intention to collect N1.4 trillion as revenue target for 2013 fiscal year, a number of freight forwarding practitioners, whose opinions were sampled by SHIPS & PORTS DAILY, have expressed mixed reactions to it.
The National President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu, described the target as an “ambitious budget.”
Shittu noted that, with the dwindling economy, which has given rise to low volume of trade coming into the country, the Service may not attain the target.
Speaking in a similar vein, former ANLCA Chairman Tin-Can Island Port Chapter, Mr. Kayode Farinto, posited that, with the numerous attacks on Nigeria’s waters and the diversion of cargoes to neighboring countries, the Service will not even be able to attain the Federal Government’s 2012 N800 billion target, which it exceeded last year.

Farinto said: “There are too many factors on ground now that the Nigeria Customs Service will not attain this target. First, you will notice there have been so many attacks on our waterways and many of these vessels have been diverted to neighboring countries. And even the Customs policy is not friendly. New vehicles are coming through the land borders than the seaports and they are paying cheaper duty. So, there are too many problems on ground that may not even allow them to generate up to N800 billion this year, coupled with the fact that our economy is in comatose now”.
On his part, the National President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Mr. Eugene Nweke, however, stated that the N1.4 trillion target is achievable if the Service focuses more on trade facilitation.
He noted that the target is a wakeup call for the Customs personnel to strive hard and ensure all revenue loopholes are blocked.
Nweke said: “Customs has a duty to facilitate trade. If trade is then facilitated, then that may increase bumper cargo throughput. But if trade is not adequately facilitated, then importers that have the capacity to import more goods may, because of financial constraints, import less. And that is not helping growth, rather it decreases growth. So, there is nothing wrong in giving target. It will make them block loopholes.”

He added: “The Service is an agency of government, they are not miracle workers. So, what that means is for Customs to work assiduously towards meeting this target. Trusting the administration to galvanize every available opportunity to block loopholes, they will attain it, based on what demand and supply will give, not on the basis of what they would do.”
Also speaking, the Chairman, NAGAFF Apapa Chapter, Mr. Fre Ajuzie, accused the Customs Management of allegedly lacking wisdom, because, according to him, it failed to consult stakeholders for their inputs before arriving at the target.
He said: “Before the Customs Management accept any target , they should have consultation with major stakeholders and get their opinions, because if the importers are not there, there is no way you can generate revenue You did not sample opinions of maritime stakeholders, which comprises of importers and agents, yet you accepted a target because you want to remain on seat. The stakeholders are important, as long as importation is concerned.”