Waivers will truncate 2014 Customs revenue target, says industrialist

Nigeria is losing billions of naira and thousands of jobs every year to foreign companies which are given waivers by the Federal Government to import finished products which are readily manufactured in the country, an industrialist, Hasib Moukarim, said.

Moukarim, who is the Managing Director of Nigeria Gas and Steel Limited and a member of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, was reacting to a statement credited to the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Alhaji Diko Abdulahi that the Customs Service intends to generate N1.2 trillion in 2014.

The industrialist, whose family founded Mouka Foam in the 1970s, said while he welcomes the revenue target, it may remain a pipe dream if the issue of waiver and concession given to importers of finished products is not stopped as this is depleting the Federal coffers while enriching a few companies abroad.

He said for the NCS to achieve the target, the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Budget Office and the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment must cooperate fully.

“When finished goods are brought into the country duty free, we are directly creating employment for foreign workers of the foreign company because such goods imported with waivers will become cheaper than the locally produced goods and this will escalate the demand and sales of the foreign manufacturers,” Moukarim said.

He said by giving waivers to foreign companies, locally produced goods become more expensive and demand for them shrinks.

This, he said, threatens the survival of Nigerian-based companies and leads to retrenchment.

“This type of scenario has forced many companies to retrench substantial percentage of work forces with the consequence of worsening the unemployment situation,” he said.

Moukarim suggested that before waiver or concession is given to any applicant, thorough investigations must be carried out by the federal ministries of Finance and Trade and Investment to verify the authenticity of the items being brought in at virtually no cost.

“The relevant sector of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) should be contacted for their expert opinion on the issue. Also professionals like Quantity Surveyors and Civil Engineers should be contacted for their expert opinion to determine the actual materials needed for the project in question,” Moukarim said.

He advised that waivers or concession should not be on imported goods that have local substitute that are produced in Nigeria.

“If all the stakeholders in the economy are ready to cooperate fully with the Customs Service, it is my candid opinion that they could surpass their projected revenue, otherwise their projections may be wishful thinking,” Moukarim said.

Nigerian manufacturers had complained in the past that Chinese companies have been abusing waivers by importing more than what is needed for their projects and flooding the markets with the surplus, thereby killing local manufacturers.

Chinese companies have been obtaining series of waivers from the Federal Government to build airports, roads and other projects, but end up importing more products than they need, the manufacturers say.

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