By Godwin Oritse
National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu has assured Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Abdullahi Dikko Inde, of his membersâ€™ unalloyed support and cooperation in the drive to boost customs revenue.
Shittu gave this assurance last Thursday when he led leaders of the association on a courtesy call on the customs boss in Abuja.
â€œI will be making a mistake if I tell you that we donâ€™t have problems but problems are meant to be solved but I like to tell you that we are not here to bring a bag load of problems to you but rather to felicitate with you and to let you know that we are ready to work with you.
What you see here today with new nomenclatures and new offices are members of our association who have identified with the vision I had when I was campaigning that we just have to go back, have a rethink and depart from the old ways because the greatest honour we can do to ourselves and to the nation is to help this nation to rediscover itself and we know that there have been reforms in customs, there have been reforms in the federation itself but what have we as agents done? We have not reformed ourselvesâ€, Shittu told the Customs boss. The ANLCA President said that licensed customs agents will catch up with the reform train â€œand be ready to do what is right to make the name of licensed customs agents what it should beâ€.
He also commended the Customs boss for intervening in the face-off between customs authorities at Tin Can Island Port and agents which would otherwise have precipitated a crisis at the port the previous week.
He said that his members encounter numerous challenges in the day-to-day conduct of their legitimate business at the seaports, airports and land borders.
He identified the presence of several government agencies operating at the port as a major factor militating against prompt clearance of goods at the port.â€œWe have decided that we shall address some of these politically and some of them legallyâ€, he said.
The Customs Comptroller General, Alhaji Dikko Abdullahi Inde, who was joined by his DCGs and some ACGs to receive the ANLCA delegation expressed joy at the emergence of Shittu as the new ANLCA leader.
After listening with rapt attention to his visitorsâ€™ comments on the activities of his men at the various customs commands and formations across the country, Dikko said that all hands must be on deck to enable customs officials perform their jobs creditably.Â He blamed some unscrupulous importers and agents for the presence of multiple customs units at the ports.
â€œI am going to talk like a Nigerian and I hope I am going to talk to Nigerians because all of us have a statutory responsibility first to make Nigeria great because we donâ€™t have any other country apart from this country,â€ Dikko stated shortly after congratulating Shittu on his recent election as National President of ANLCA. â€œYou are all complaining and customs officers are also complaining. You are complaining of multiple customs units around you but the question is why are there multiple customs units? â€œThe answer is simply because you refuse to do the right thing.
â€œIf you remember, customs officers before now used to collect duties in cash and kept in their drawers and then take to the bank at the close of the dayâ€™s work but today all that has changed.
The changes came about because of the perception that customs is a corrupt institution prompting the introduction of Pre_shipment inspection whereby everything was defined on paper and the only thing left was for you to go and pay your duty at the bank after assessment.
Everything has been taken away from customs except physical examination. The aim of government is to do away with corruption and that is why government introduced ASYCUDA so that everything can be done electronically.
â€œImmediately upon my assumption of duty, we have gone further and now we do paperless transaction whereby we are minimising contact between importers/agents with customs but still you people are not happy. Is it the system or ourselves?â€, Dikko asked his visitors rhetorically.
â€œIt is we. The whole issues here bother on sincerityâ€, Dikko stated.
Dikko said that the multiple customs units in and around the ports were necessitated by the insincerity of importers and agents especially those who do false declaration in order to evade paying appropriate customs duty.
He also charged the ANLCA leadership to wield the big stick against its recalcitrant members and weed out quacks from the freight forwarding business.
â€œIt is painful to see someone wake up early in the morning and go into the port.
He does not belong anywhere, he does not have any responsibility or identifiable means of income but only to come out with one million or two million naira for a job he has not done because he is not answerable to anybodyâ€, the customs boss lamented.He charged the ANLCA leadership to create standards by introducing a scale of professional charges for its members.