By Godfrey Bivbere, David Sagua & Victoria Edema
Chairman of the Tin-can Island Chapter of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Kayode Farinto, has disclosed that the Federal Government lost over N200 billion in revenue to private companies and individuals in the past when cargo clearance documentation was done manually.
Farinto explained that the era encouraged corruption through the fact that there was increased personal contact between customs officers and licensed customs agents.
He noted that the present automated system, if properly implemented would not only improve the documentation process but also help boost the revenue accruable to government.
He was however, quick to add that the present era of automation, which is mandatory for all countries that are signatory to most of the treaties has helped Nigerian government. According to him, Nigeria Customs Service in contemporary years has grown rapidly from analogue to digitalization of operations .“
He stated that the suspended single window policy if re-introduced would help promote the one stop shop policy and interconnectivity of shipping companies, agents and terminal operators.
Farinto stressed that if the electronic declaration becomes a reality, it means Nigeria has achieved the one-stop shop policy on cargo clearance as there would be efficient and reliable interconnectivity between traders, shipping companies, terminal operators and the Nigeria Customs .
He called for autonomy for the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS as this would create a better working relationship between the NCS and agents.
He pointed out that the NCS would seek the input of agents before introducing such policies when it is autonomous.
Farinto stated further that the NCS is prepared to take over the functions of service providers by December this year, adding that over 6,000 officers of the Nigeria Customs Service have acquired skills both locally and internationally on how to handle the scanning machines.
He expressed the view that there should be no fear on the ability of officers of the NCS to manage the equipment that would be left behind by the service providers.
On the suspended controversial benchmark policy, he explained that it negated international best practices and stressed that autonomy would permanently put an end to agitation for its resuscitation in some quarters.
According to him the benchmark regime has sent wrong signals to importers and agents, hence goods have in recent times been diverted to neighbouring countries leading to loss of revenue to government.
He decried the policy of setting revenue target for the service noting that the service has, therefore, concentrated effort in revenue generation as opposed to trade facilitation.