By Ifeyinwa Obi
There are indication that the National Assembly would tinker with the Customs enabling law, the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) in order to make it more proactive to meet the challenges of a modern day customs service.
This is consequent upon a Federal Government Bill forwarded to the National Assembly requesting that the lawmakers repeal and re enact the CEMA 2004 as well as repeal also, the existing Destination Inspection Act 2003 to allow Nigeria Customs Service NCS take over all obligations of the Federal Ministry of Finance and the CBN under the new Act.
Sources close to the National Assembly, and confirmed by a member of the customs board revealed that the initiative became necessary after the Law makers discovered that some of the conditions adopted by the CEMA to deter crimes especially via fines were no longer relevant or stringent enough to deter such crimes.
â€œThe CEMA, being a law enacted in the 1950â€™s does not reflect the sovereignty of an independent Nigeria. The CEMA does not reflect the realities of modern day international trade and it is also silent on Destination Inspection of the present day Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
â€œTrade practices procedures and sanctions that existed in the 1950â€™â€™s are no longer relevant, fines and penalties prescribed by CEMA are ludicrous and generally incapable of deterring economic criminals even if fully enforcedâ€ he disclosed further.
He posited that the National Assembly in the course of its statutory over sight functions has discovered that if the service was to incorporate Customs practice, traditions and obligation, then various recommendations and instrument on Customs and trade standard practice must be in consonance with the World Customs Organization WCO, the United Nation Trade and Development (UNICTAD) and the World Trade Organization WTO etc; of which Nigeria is a recognized party.
â€œFor Nigeria to fully exploit the benefits of its strategic placement and its ambition to be the maritime hub of the sub-region, our trade laws, especially as they relate to NCS operations must be made very simple and harmonized, with that of other Customs organizations of the sub regionsâ€.
Speaking on the issue of overtime cargo, he highlighted that the NASS has a duty of transforming over time cargo task into a transparent Public Auction System (PAS); separate the Board chairman from the supervising minister as is the case with other parastals under the Ministry of Finance (MOF) as well as make NCS operations to become more proactive.
The law maker who spoke under the condition of anonymity frowned on what he saw as undue emphasis on revenue generation by the Service and advised that it was trade liberalization that should be prioritized.
â€œEmphasis all over the world is on trade facilitation, liberalization, economic integration and globalization of markets rather than revenue generation which the CEMA stoutly promotesâ€ he also said.
In the meantime, a committee of the House has charged the Board of Customs to carry out a holistic review and update of all Customs Notices, tariff, codes and books of instructions on imports and exports and harmonize them in line with global best practices.