Clearing Agents Kick Against N4.1bn Revenue Target, Customs Modernisation

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Clearing agents operating at the nation’s seaports have described the N4.1trillion revenue target set for the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) as outrageous, saying, the pressure to meet such target will either reduce or threaten investments by the organised private sector.

This was even as the group urged the federal government to consider the huge debt profile of the country before signing into law the $3.1billion Customs Modernisation Project.

Speaking during a press conference in Lagos after the association’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting over the weekend, ANLCA president, Tony Iju Nwabunike said the revenue target would undermine the productivity of the nation’s economy.

Nwabunike said: “this high revenue target will place the NCS under pressure of high revenue collection and undermine the trade facilitation role the Service should render.

“Pursuing bigger revenue and failing to strengthen trade results in greater losses to the country as investments are either threatened, reduced or made non existent.

“Totality of Customs efforts deployed into revenue pursuit reduces the service productivity in many ways.”

On the $3.1billion Customs modernisation project, the ANLCA national president expressed worry that the 20-year project could be another venture that deepens the country’s debts as he urged the government to expedite the deployment of scanners at the ports.

“We want to advise the federal government to be careful before signing into law the $3.1billion Customs modernisation project which, we heard, will run for 20 years. We urge President Muhammadu Buhari and the Finance minister to avoid assenting to the deal.

Nigeria is already in serious debts and Customs being a strategic non oil revenue earner for government shouldn’t be tied to another long term repayments for two decades.

“We call on the National Assembly to ensure the Federal Ministry of Finance, Nigeria Customs Service and all parties involved observe due diligence so the project won’t trap the country in another long debt repayment for 20 years and maybe for lesser value,” Nwabunike added.

The ANLCA boss also used the opportunity to clarify that his administration will elapse in April 2023, noting that the review of 5-year single tenure was adopted at the previous NEC meeting in 2020 at Owerri, where it was agreed that the new regime takes off with his administration.

“For those expelled and suspended persons, we are open to reconsidering our decision on them if we see genuine remorse and repentance. We can only do this if we see true change in behaviours and resolve on their part,” he said.

Nwabunike, however, commended the federal government for its recent inauguration of an expanded partnership committee on Blue Economy chaired by the Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo.

To him, the move can be considered as a very bold step in the right direction and it shows more commitment by the Buhari administration to maritime matters.

While he urged the Blue Economy committee to go beyond conference room talk and paper work to addressing real challenges militating against full harvesting of our marine environment benefits in a sustainable manner, he posited that as a body of customs brokers, practitioners and investors with vast experience in trade matters, the federal government should include freight agents in such committee.

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