Uche Usim, Abuja
Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Hameed Ali disclosed on Monday that the Federal Government has set a revenue target of N887 billion for the Service in 2019, assuring that the figure will be surpassed as management has set a far higher in-house target for itself.
The Customs head said management would no longer tolerate the incessant killing of its officers by smugglers, vowing that appropriate force would henceforth be applied in its anti-smuggling operations.
Speaking at the 2019 International Customs Day (ICD) with the theme “Smart Border for Seamless Trade, Travel and Transport,” Ali said the Service intends to swell its revenue generation by acquiring non-intrusive equipment to boost trade facilitation, while ensuring that stakeholders comply with trade rules.
Nigeria Customs generated N904.072 billion, N898.673 billion, N1.037 trillion and N1.202 trillion in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively. The figures total N4.042 trillion from 2015 to 2018.
As a way of disincentivizing smuggling, Ali recommended that the Federal Government crash the clearance cost of vehicles.
Ali explained: “We have 35 percent duty and 35 percent levy, and so if you import a brand new vehicle into Nigeria, you pay 70 percent duty. From what we have done, and based on statistics, we discovered that this duty has now driven most of our importers to our neighbouring ports and also it has increased the rate of smuggling into this country of new vehicles.
“Having interacted with our stakeholders, we discovered from what they said that the sudden increase in duty is what is driving them. And since 35 percent duty cannot be tinkered with, the one that can be tinkered with which is a policy by the Nigerian government. The 35 percent was put in order to encourage our automotive industry to ensure that it is developed. If we reduce the levy, the volume of cars that would be imported into Nigeria will increase and the revenue from the NCS will increase.
“So we are advising that the government review the levy and we are asking that it should be reduced to about 10 percent. If you do that, then it will mean that the collective duty on a new vehicle will be about 45 percent. That is 35 percent duty and ten percent levy. With that, we will eventually get an increase in the volume of vehicles that are imported, smuggling will be reduced and, therefore, we will realise more revenue and the lives of our people will be saved.”
On the killing of Customs officers on official duties, Ali said; “Enough is enough. We won’t take it anymore. If host communities decide to side with criminals, then it means they are all criminals and will treat them as such. These killings have to stop.
“Border communities, parents, guardians, traditional rulers, and other stakeholders should call their wards to order. We will take up arms to protect our officers and men.
“We urge border dwellers to report smugglers’ activities. These are economic saboteurs. We need to jointly protect the country”, he said.
Ali listed challenges facing Customs to include: porous borders, inadequate non-intrusive equipment, hostile border community dwellers, high level of non-formal trades, low implementation of ECOWAS Protocol on transit and low level of compliance among international trade actors, among other issues.