By Eguono Odjegba
BOARD of Trustees, BoT, of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agent, ANLCA, Chief Ernest Elochukwu, has accused the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, of systematically killing the economy over its insatiable quests for higher revenue, describing the action of Customs as inimical to growth, inappropriate, illegal and unacceptable.
The customs broker who was responding to questions on the position of ANLCA on the Customs’ N2trillion revenue target for the current fiscal year, also lampooned the Federal Government for its primitive taxation regimes despite existence of modern tax systems and constitutional revenue generation models.
He stated: “It is definitely impacting negatively on the economy. It’s archaic because it has no modern or economic basis, except that it is supported by an irresponsible system. It has to be changed.
“First and foremost, it is really a national disgrace that Nigeria appears to be the only country in known history where agencies collecting revenues is not dependent on any well defined parameters.
“The duty rate for any item is already there in the tariff, the only way revenue can increase is by increase in the volume of import and export. Over time the Federal Government has operated this and the Customs has gleefully accepted it as a means of keeping their job. So if they meet one target threshold, they are given a higher one, so what they have been given in 2020 will only enable them to escalate what they have always been doing; holding the economy by the jugular.
“In other words, despite codified standard of duty rating, Customs, indiscriminately issues duty demand/demand notices on cargo that is coming to Nigeria without regard to whether it is paying a particular rate of duty. For instance, for an item that is paying five per cent duty rate and within certain value range, one is not expecting that item to pay the same with the one that is paying 20 percent.
“But you now find that in the Nigerian system you hear things like ‘this duty is not enough…so it is not about duty being correct but that it is not enough. So what it means in essence is that the Customs have been given licence by the Federal Government to impose arbitrary duty, so nothing you pay is ever enough, because the operatives are now hunting for money in order to achieve a target through arbitrary duty demand that has taken over.
“Standard no longer suffices, whereas all over the world trade is based on standard rules. The pity of it all is that the government that has given this target is only looking at revenue to be able to fund budget, and this same budget has over 70 percent recurrent content, funds used in serving machinery of government, not providing infrastructure that enables the economy to develop.
“The economy is now struggling because what it has brought about is that like I said, no duty is ever enough, so even imports for industrial use, you still see Customs officers querying them. These are supposed to be like factors of production; they are not end products. Even raw materials, machineries, they are indiscriminately querying duty on them as not being enough. It is unspeakable and unacceptable.’’