Experts are optimistic that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) could achieve its N1.5 trillion new revenue target for the year, but worry that poor operations at the ports and high level of smuggling at the nation’s porous borders remain strong concern.
Customs says it is determined to hit N1.5 trillion revenues in 2018, indicating about N200 billion higher than last year’s N1.3 trillion feat through intelligence driven operation strategy.
However, Lucky Amiwero, president, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, is of the view that while the Customs strategises to meet their annual target, they should also comply with the laid down procedures for the agency’s operations.
“What the agency should do now is to keep up with their procedures, in terms of what they are doing at the ports. We need to re-organise the system properly and make it conducive for users.
“A lot of industries are closing down and moving out of the country because the Nigeria custom system is not friendly, the operators of the agency are not complying with the law but they are just imposing it on the people,” Amiwero says.
He raises the concerns that in Nigeria today, the Custom service is the judge, the lawyer and the prosecutor, which according to him, is not done anywhere in the world.
“Meeting of target is not the issue but the reflection of the target in the economy. The Nigerian import systems are the worst in the world, the procedures are outdated. What we want is for them to put their procedures right to enhance the economy,” he says further.
He explains that Custom’s duty is to ensure security of goods, interpretation, classification, treatment and application of port procedure, adding that the system must be organised and work with the principles of transparency, predictability and consistency.
In 2017, Customs surpassed a N1.3 trillion revenue feat, which according to the agency, was achieved through new strategies, including anti-smuggling operations with over 4,000 assorted seizures worth over N11 billion in value.
The Customs also says its strategic redeployment of officers and men of the service, overhauling and retraining of operatives of the Customs intelligence unit and a regime of prompt reward for hard work and punishment for offenders also helped.
It equally maximised automation operations through monitoring, tracking infractions, blocking and recovering lost revenues; transparent promotion process strictly based on merit and deliberate stakeholder engagements across the country.
Joseph Attah, public relations officer of Custom, told BusinessDay that the Service was very determined to surpass its N1.5 trillion target for the year 2018.
“We are working not only to achieve our set target but to surpass it, hence we need to embark on activities that will sustain and surpass our last achievement,” Attah said.
“So far, we have had changes in our officials, the comptroller general dissolved the compliance team and set up the custom strike force which will operate differently from what the compliance team used to do, the idea is to bring about customs operation that is increasingly intelligence driven,” he stressed.
He explained that the activities of the strike force are attributed with credible intelligence as they are expected to roll out from their base to strike at offenders rather than roaming about the highways.
According to Attah, the Service as part of its plans to increase the nation’s revenue is working hard to ensure that all leakages in the revenue system are blocked and ensure the fight against smuggling is on the standstill.
“The strike force team have credible intelligence to roll out from their base and strike, they are not expected to roam about the high way of check point. Part of the way we intend to increase revenue is to ensure that all leakages are blocked and ensure the fighting of smuggling to a standstill.
He further explained that the this development will enhance the trade facilitation and ease of doing business in Nigeria adding that the Service is set to dismantle any form of impediment to the free flow of goods in country and enhance the activity level of stakeholders.
But Opeyemi Agbaje, board member of the Lagos State Securities Trust Fund, affirmed that the agency should improve the logistics and procedures around the ports and make the operations seamless so as to improve the nation’s economy.
According to Agbaje, Customs revenue is dependent on the economy of the nation which in relation with the non-oil sector still appears to be in recession adding that the set target may not come through so easily except the government promote policies that encourage trade in the country.
He said “with the non-oil sector of the economy still in recession of which trade is a part, achieving that target might not be easy except the government promote policies/initiatives that will encourage trade, both export and import trade.
“Also the Logistics around the Port operations in Nigeria are very poor and it is a constraints to Port users, So I think the Agency should set the Logistics and procedures right,” he said.