Steve Agbota, [email protected]
Like armed robbery, oil bunkering and advance fee fraud ( aka 419), smuggling of light arms, drugs and other prohibited items has become a big menace to the security and economy of Nigeria.
It has already been identified as Nigerian industrialization enemy number one given the penchant of the whole trade practices to discourage genuine investors in the country from setting up manufacturing businesses in the country.
Those involved in this illicit business are referred to as criminals and economic saboteurs in the society.
As the most populous black nation in the world, Nigeria has been struggling to combat smuggling over the year without success as all manners of dangerous weapons and other illicit items such as hard drugs have found their ways into the country through smuggling.
In January 2017, scores of dangerous weapons were intercepted in Lagos, a development that has forced the Federal Government on August 20, 2019 to closure of all the nation’s land borders, believed to be posing security threat to both the citizens and the economy at large.
Security and economic experts have argued that smuggling poses serious threat to the economy, by discouraging investments and destroys innovation.
Although the Nigerian government has good reasons to justify its actions, the effect of that decision to close all its land borders three months ago to tackle smuggling has been one of the most-talked-about issues in the sub-region today. Smugglers at Nigeria’s porous borders have become a menace too difficult for the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
According to experts, this situation could have been minimised if Nigerian government had adopted International agreement on cargo security on import to reverse the influx of arms, ammunition, and unwholesome goods into Nigeria and implement the World Customs Organisation (WCO) Safe Framework of Standard, designed to secure and facilitate global trade and provide multi-layered set of standards for container/cargo security.
Despite being a signatory to the convention of WCO, Nigeria practices Destination Inspection(DI) of import, which allows goods to be imported into the country without inspection, thereby contravening various provision of Customs-to-Customs Standards on WCO Safe Framework of standard to secure and facilitate global trade.
Daily Sun learnt that Destination Inspection(DI) process of import on cargo allows the illicit cross-border movement of Weapons of Mass Destruction(WMD), Drugs, Arms, Ammunitions, counterfeit merchandised hazardous waste and human trafficking as presently practiced in Nigeria, which allows goods into Nigeria without pre-screening to identify high risk goods before shipment.
The process of no inspection/ prescreening of goods coming into Nigeria poses greater security risk with the influx of Arms, Ammunition, Contrabands, Narcotics, Explosives (e.g., dirty bombs, and Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) and unwholesome items into the country in contravention of standard 2, 3 and 11 of the WCO Safe framework of Standard.
In an open letter written to President, Muhammadu Buhari, the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), called on the Federal Government to urgently adopt international agreement on cargo security on import so as to reverse the influx of arms, ammunition, and unwholesome goods into Nigeria.
The letter, which was signed by the President of NCMDLCA, Mr. Lucky Amiwero, urged the government to implement the World Customs Organisation (WCO) Safe Framework of Standard, designed to secure and facilitate global trade and provide multi-layered set of standards for container/cargo security.
According to him, the WCO Convention was developed to enhance security, increase revenue and facilitate international trade through the following two pillars, which are; Customs-to-Customs and Customs-to-Business.
He explained that the Customs-to- Customs pillar provides for cooperation between Customs authorities in order to inspect cargo before it arrives at the destination ports on outbound and inbound of non-instructive inspection while the Custom-to-Business pillar aims to create an international system for identifying private business that offers a high degree of security/integrity.
He also pointed out that there was need to reduce the burden of the clearance of legitimate goods that is stranded at the border to meet up, “with our commitment as a nation under the provision of Article 35, 36 and 37 of ECOWAS revised treaty that cover Liberalization of Trade (ETLS) and goods imported from third country under section 18 of the Customs and excise Management Act.”
Amiwero added: “There is the urgent need for Nigeria as a contracting party to the global Multi-layered Security protocol the WCO Safe Framework of Standards, to comply with the protocol by reducing the illicit–cross boarder movement of unwholesome goods into the country.
“There is the urgent need to initiate the process of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with various countries, where cargo throughput of import is high e.g China, Turkey, India, etc. for the agreement of Mutual Administrative Assistant for collaborative activities on the prevention, investigation, repression and transnational crime as contained in various conventions,” he added.
He also called the Federal Government to repair the collapsed scanners in the ports that is the core on security tool to reduce the influx of illicit goods in the country.
“There is the urgent need to safeguard and secure our nation from the influx of Arms, Ammunition, Narcotics, dirty Bomb, unwholesome items and Weapon of mass destruction (WMD) through the implementation of the provision of international Cargo Security Agreement.
He recommended that there is the need to accommodate various pre-shipment Inspection process under Customs control as conducted by other government agencies such as Customs, National Agency for Food Drugs Administration Control (NAFDAC), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) etc, that are involved in quality, quantity and value assessment of imported goods as practiced globally to safeguard the National Security and reduce the process and cost of multiple charges.
He urged the Federal Government to urgently constitute a committee of national security and trade procedure experts to address the shortfall in the import process, which constitutes bottlenecks and impede the component of trading across border on ease of doing business.