The Minister of Finance, Mr. Olusegun Aganga has charged the Nigeria Customs Service to ensure the reversal in the loss of trade and investment in the country, especially to neighbouring West African countries.
He said, â€œThe Customs that we need is not one that not only does its job professionally, but also lives up to its billing as the prime agency at the nationâ€™s ports, by actively seeking solutions to the challenges that port users face and advising government proactively on them.
â€œWe canâ€™t afford to keep losing trade and revenue to neighbouring countries as we currently do,â€ the Minister added.
Aganga noted that trade has become a key driver in economic growth and development, adding that in both developing and developed countries, â€œinternational trade has been recognized as extraordinarily effective for raising living standards.â€
He said, â€œThe recent global economic crisis dwindled government revenue compelling governments to exercise prudence in the management of national resources. This amplified the need for governments to explore further revenue resources with increased trading opportunities in the frame.â€
According to him, the Nigerian Customs was critical to sustainable economic development of the country. â€œIt is the key implementation agency of every countryâ€™s fiscal policy.
The efficiency or otherwise of the custom service of any nation significantly helps to determine how well its economy fares.â€
He added that in the execution of its duties, the Nigerian Customs has achieved mixed results, noting that while there had been improvements in year_on_year revenue generation, the service was performing below expectations, doing just about 50 percent of the budget.
He said, â€œThe Customs has been rated low in the area of trade facilitation. It has been blamed for obstructing free flow of trade into and out of Nigeria. There is definitely room for improvement, and there are still some officers and men that give the service a bad name.
â€œMuch more has to be done and be seen to have been done to change the negative public perception of the service. Our goal remains the attainment of 48_hour clearance of goods at the ports as well as port decongestion. Without the achievement of these goals, the image of the Customs shall remain negative, rightly or wrongly,â€ Aganga added.
Meanwhile, the Minister has explained that the former Presidential Task Force on the Reform of the Nigeria Customs, headed by a former Comptroller_General of Customs, Alhaji Bello Haliru Mohammed, was disbanded due to non_performance.
According to him, the former committee had nothing to show after more than two years of existence. â€œTwo years down the line, all that we got is an interim draft report in January this year, which does not show great cohesion and cooperation.
â€œThis necessitated the reconstitution of this task force on which you have been called to serve. It needs to be reinvigorated to bring this assignment to a conclusion and move the service and the economy in the desired direction,â€ he stated.
The responsibility of the Task Force, Aganga stressed, is to harmonise the various reports of the several reform initiatives, and evolve a blueprint for the implementation of the approved and adopted recommendations of those reports.
The committee, which has three months to complete its task and submit a report, is headed by a former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Ochi C. Achinivu, has it membership drawn from the ministry, the Nigeria Customs Service, the State Security Service, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Clearing and Forwarding Agents Association, and the private sector.