House of Reps Move to Reform Customs Operations, Organise Public Hearing

…Amendment to Customs Act is not to make the agency autonomous – Hon. Leke Abejide

BY OBUTE JAMES

The Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon. Femi Gbajabiamilam on Tuesday declared open a one-day public hearing on the Nigeria Customs Service (Establishment) Bill, 2021.

The Speaker assured the general public of the House determination to implement a wholesale reform of customs and excise operations in Nigeria.

Gbajabiamila said, the House needed the support of the relevant stakeholders, whose contributions are critical in the legislative process that would strengthen customs operations.

The one-day public hearing on the Nigeria Customs Service (establishment) Bill, 2021 was organized by the House Committee on Customs and Excise, chaired by Hon. Leke Abejide.

He said the bill was the product of a coordinated effort by the House, “working with stakeholders in the sector, to implement a wholesale reform of customs and excise operations in Nigeria.

“This effort is long overdue, and much needed to address existing challenges with customs enforcement, ports efficiency, smuggling prevention, efficient collection and remittance of government revenue and the proper implementation of government fiscal measures.

“Whether or not we will succeed in these objectives depends largely on the stakeholders gathered here today and the contributions you make to the legislative process.”

Gbajabiamila said the Covid-19 pandemic has, among other things, led to a significant decline in global demand for fossil fuels, which coupled with other factors unique to Nigeria, depleted Nigeria’s revenue generation from oil and gas.

“This reality is a stark manifestation of the ongoing need to diversify our nation’s economy to improve income from non-oil and gas sources.

“It is also evidence of the need to use the instruments of legislative authority to promote policies and enact mandates to encourage investment, enable commercial activity and promote enterprise in the country.

“Ensuring that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) operates optimally in executing its statutory functions without corruption and malfeasance of any sort is essential to achieve these other objectives. And this is what we hope to achieve with the Bill under consideration.”


The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Customs and Excise, Hon. Leke Abejide

The committee chairman, Hon. Abejide, in a welcome address said in today’s competitive world, the Nigeria Customs Act, its regulations and operational guidelines “are archaic, obsolete, and no longer in tandem with modern-day challenges and this has unfortunately reduced measurably the accruing revenue against the volume of trade.”

Thus, he said, the public hearing provided an opportunity “of transforming the Nigeria Customs Service to being the most potent revenue collecting body in Africa, and to making it the most efficient, streamlined, technologically driven, and people-friendly agency of the Nigerian Government.”

The public hearing was attended by several government organizations and non-governmental organizations.

In res[ponding to allegations by some quarters that the Customs Amendment Bill 2021 is draconian and not in line with international best practices, Hon. Leke Abejide said the technical committee will look at the submission of the stakeholders before the bill will be passed into law.

He assured the general public that the bill is not intended to make Nigeria Customs autonomous. He the paramilitary agency is under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Finance.

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 on 30th November, 2021.

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.

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