BY OBUTE JAMES
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Customs and Exercise, Hon. Leke Abejide said the amendment being sought into the Customs and Exercise Act will address the controversies surrounding the appointment of Comptroller General of Customs.
Hon. Abejide told THE LEGISLATURE in an interview shortly after the Bill passed Second Reading in the House of Representatives on Tuesday 30th November, that the current CG of Customs will be last civilian to be appointed as CG.
He noted that the existing Act vested the power of appointment of CG on Mr President but did not specify whether the CG must be a serving Customs officer.
The Bill seeking to repeal the Customs and Exercise Act to overhaul the operations of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and make it more effective scaled Second Reading in the House of Representatives.
The proposed legislation titled ‘Bill for an Act to Repeal the Customs and Excise Management Act, Cap.C45, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and Enact the Nigeria Customs Service (Establishment) Bill; and for Related Matters’, is sponsored by the Chairman, House Committee on Customs, Hon. Leke Abejide.
Leading the debate on its general principle, Abejide said that the extant law has become obsolete and ineffective for the operations of the NCS.
According to him, since 1958, the Nigeria Customs and Excise Management Act has not undergone any major reform and its operational guidelines are archaic, obsolete and no longer in tandem with modern day challenges.
This, he said, has unfortunately reduced measurably the accruing revenue against the volume of trade.
He said the bill, if successfully passed into law, will enable the collation of all Customs and Excise Legislations into a single compendium of Customs and Excise Act to facilitate easy reference and easy knowledge driven Customs and Excise policies.
The lawmaker also said the injection of provisions driven from stakeholders’ advice and experiences shall bring measures to eradicate fraud and smuggling activities for full collection of revenue due, timely from Customs and Excise duties.
He further said it will position the NCS to be financially stable in order to recruit the required number of officers they need to man the country’s porous border stations.
Abejide said: “The need for a holistic overhaul of our Customs and Excise legislation cannot be overemphasized in view of its contribution to fiscal and national policy development. The Nigeria Customs Service recently has 15,349 officers instead of 30,000 officers needed for the Service to function optimally.
“The current 7% cost of collection from duties payment is not enough to pay salaries of officers, not to talk of improving the infrastructure. For this reason, this Bill provides for additional funding system based on 4% FOB, according to international best practice, to address funding problems and to reposition the service for improved efficiency and service delivery.
“Making the Act more readable to the understanding of the Principal Stakeholders thereby deviating from hitherto strict legal drafting of the aged. Providing stiffer punishments for offenders to act as deterrence for serious economic crimes of Customs and Excise oriented, thereby encouraging more revenue in the area of fine payment. Provision of legislative input into the appointment of Comptroller General of Customs and Excise similar to other organizations like Inspector General of Police and Service Chiefs.
“Boosting the morale of Customs officers with incentives introduced to carry them along in the scheme of things from the Comptroller General down to the last employee of the service in line with revenue generation institutions and service delivery mechanism; and introduction of new Excise collectable revenue avenues in line with the just recently enacted Finance Act 2020 for smooth operation. The collection of Excise Duties on all carbonated drinks is now captured in this Bill for the Nigeria Customs Service to have adequate legal backing to function in this area.”