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Save us the trouble of pursuing smugglers customs boss tells FG

by Business News Report

….. Encourage quality local production as economic strategy
By Omoh Gabriel, Business Editor
The Comptroller General of Customs Service Abdullahi Dikko has urged the federal government to lift the ban on the remaining items on the prohibition list in order to enhance revenue flow as well as save the service the agony of chasing smugglers across the vast borders of the country. He said that Customs service was not responsible for the delay in clearing goods at the port stating that every customs officer knows that the faster the process of clearing goods the better for the service. He said if it were possible customs would have adopted four hours clearance strategy at the ports.
Speaking at an interactive session with Business Editors forum at the federal operation office Lagos, Dikko declared “Government should lift the ban on these items so that we can have revenue, and we will have less burden of pursuing people because of the problems of goods we cannot produce. In fact, that was the presentation the service made on Textiles and even fairly used vehicles.
“Government listened to that and now they are un-banned. Now, China is leading the world economies, look at their population, they have the cheapest labour in the world, they produce en masse and they have to look where to sell these goods. At low cost they can penetrate any country and dominate the market.

“I remember during the pre-shipment inspection regime that we have the largest record of seizures.
For instance, if you go to Kano, gradually, Chinese have taken over. So, it is an issue that government should look at, either government should un-ban prohibited items and allow them to come in or government should encourage people who are interested in textile manufacturing to bring in sophisticated machinery so that they can produce quality materials here such that even if you go out and you compare the quality is the same as the one produced here.
“Let me ask you, is there anybody here that is drinking foreign fruit juice? Where will you even see it? We have Chivita, Five Alive, Funman, Dansa and all of them withstands the quality of foreign juice. So, if you look at it economically, we have done away with foreign juice. Let’s do the same thing for textiles, shoes, even cars. I don’t believe that import is much cheaper than production. How much is a litre of gas in Nigeria compared with a litre of gas in the UK? But they produce.
“So the issue here is that it all depends on individuals and we have to start somewhere and build patriotism in our people.
Reacting to the issue of the delay in clearing goods at the ports, the CG said “We have no reason for delaying a cargo because if you delay a cargo, the demurrage does not come to the Customs. What comes to us is revenue. So the more we facilitate trade, the more we move cargoes out of the ports, and the more cargoes come in, the more revenue we get. So there is no basis on which a Customs officer would delay a cargo because it is not going to be in the best interest of the service. \
“So if there is a way we can make it six hours clearance, we will do it in order to get more revenue. I can tell you it is not Customs officers that delay cargoes, because they know it is affecting the service’s seven per cent cost of collection. The more you collect, the more you get, and the less you clear, the less revenue you get and you do not blame anybody for the shortfall in revenue generation.
Everybody wants to ensure that enough revenue is collected. So in as much as we are together, we are partners in progress.
On the relationship with the concessionaires at the port Dikko said “The goodness of any organisation is to have a regulatory authority that can say this is wrong, this is right and to set a standard. The standard for Customs is revenue collection, and target is given to us. As for standards for the concessionaires, nobody knows how many forklifts and cranes they can bring, because nobody sits down and examines the size and the volume of traffic. So I believe that the concession was based on the amount of money they were willing to pay. I think the agreement is only on monetary terms and the structures for service delivery I think is porous because you can not concession Apapa ports with that large size and volume of traffic and somebody is having only two cranes. So the responsibility is for the regulatory authority to challenge them, it is not for us in the Customs to do that because we are not the ones regulating them”.
On the issue of Excise duty, he said “maybe you have to see the amount of revenue collection from the excise unit. This year, we are organising a special training course for our Excise officers. We are bringing in experts from outside the country because people are approaching us with the new method of collecting excise duty. But we are not going to delegate our own responsibilities to a private company. So we are telling them that ‘whatever you have, come to us and teach us and we’ll pay you.’ We will adopt the system provided it will help us to maximise revenue collection”.

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