By Bimbola Oyesola
The Nigeria Customs Service, yesterday said that less than 5 per cent of importers comply with laws guiding importation of goods into the country, thereby creating problems for the organisation in the clearance.
Speaking at an interactive event of the 45th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Manufacturers Association (MAN) in Lagos, the Controller General of Customs, Colonel Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd), lamented that agency’s efforts to comply with the Federal Government’s 48 hours clearance of goods at the port is being hampered by false declaration by importers.
He said, “though we have taken steps to digitalise the fast track process at the port, most items brought in are never what they declared on the manifest.
“Our biggest problem is compliance. If only our traders can comply with the law, then things would be easier. Those giving us problem are within 5 per cent; if the importers are sincere, clearance should not take more than 30 minutes. We believe that if there is trust, then most of the problems will be lessened by 90 per cent,” he said.
He noted that aside the manufacturers who import raw materials and have been known by Customs over the years, 99 per cent of traders who brought in goods were not sincere with their declaration, thereby putting Customs through much stress.
He related a situation where an importer declared that he had only brought in wash-hand basins but upon investigation, Customs discovered that he had concealed rifles in the container.
“If all are truthful, I can assure you that within 48 hours, we will clear your goods but we cannot because of insincerity mostly by our traders,” he said.
The CG, however, assured the manufacturers that the single window, which they have been agitating for has reached about 70 per cent completion and is now under the office of the Vice President, adding that it would be achieved before the end of the year. Ali said the single window would make the process of clearance faster than before, adding that work is also in progress on the common ECOWAS tariff.
He, however, warned that Nigeria would not open its border to goods that are not originally produced by member countries to have unfettered access into the country.
“As much as we accept free flow of goods manufactured from ECOWAS region at zero duty per cent, where goods imported into Togo lands in Nigeria, this cannot attract zero duty,” he said.
He assured the manufacturers of Customs’ support to clear their raw materials on fast track bearing in mind the importance of the real sector to the economy.
The CG noted that as much as it is the responsibility of Customs to collect revenue, he takes pride in collecting export duty than import duty.
“Manufacturing sector is the bone of our economy. When we import, we grow other people’s economy. If we can produce and consume, we will raise our GDP,” he said.
The President of MAN, Frank Jacobs, had earlier commended the Customs’ CG for his support to manufacturers and his success within the short period in office.