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Nigeria customs and disregard for the application of laws

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custom[1]NIGERIA Customs Service is one of the most important government agencies in terms of its statutory function and also a product of the law of the Federation and itself, which operates under the precepts of the same law, not just as an enforcer of the law but also as a subject of the law.

The agency is known for its bogus budget for training and retraining of officers both locally and internationally to be able to maintain standard global practice in terms of its statutory functions of revenue collection, safe guarding of our economy through anti-smuggling activities as well as through other means.

Also worthy of note is the fact that the customs service is also the vanguard of public enlightenment in order to achieve it purpose, they are fully engaged in the training and enlightenment of their immediate public which include freight forwarding practitioners (customs house brokers) and consignees and or importers.

The operations of the service are all inculcated in the law as embedded in the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) CAP 45 law of the Federation and other laws, which are product of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and when it comes to generation of revenue and personal gains for officers of the Custom Service the law is important.

In fact, sometimes policy statements are implemented before the due date. Such was the increase in tariff rate on vehicles in Tin-can 2 Area Command (PTML), which was implemented about two months before the effectiveness of the policy as announced by the government in the year 2014.

I have been having terrible experiences with the Customs regarding disregard for norms and laws but my most recent one calls for an immediate action and the Nigerian public need to start having value for the tax they pay and used to pay the salaries of the people in service.

In the advent of destination inspection, the government effected some changes in the laws governing the collection of revenue to face out old ones that are no longer relevant in our time to restore sanity in the system.

Unfortunately, the officers and men of the customs are still creating unpalatable situations in which importers and their representatives are subjected to unhealthy treatment like being compelled to part with money in terms of settlement or pay the unlawful difference between the exchange rate on the e-form M which represents what is on the PAAR and the prevailing exchange rate in the system which usually changes with time

Section 37 of the CEMA states: “Duties shall be paid and on the rates i.e. percentage on C.I.F.” The provision does not incorporate exchange rate but duty rate. The said law was made in the 1970s when exchange rate was relatively stable and was not prone fluctuations.

However, in recent times, early 2007, when the customs service adopted the automated system they rolled out new guidelines which they have improved upon over time up till date; the said guideline was created in line with present day realities, as mentioned earlier.

Attention was not given to exchange rate in the earlier laws made and so the management of the customs after doing their home work properly ensured that the new guideline enshrined this exchange rate to avoid ambiguity.

However, the officers of the service tend to discretionarily throw away caution in the application of the law either for personal and selfish reasons or to meet the revenue target set for themselves.

In the new procedure and guideline, the customs used to usher in and which engineered the destination inspection regime, it was clearly spelled out in item ‘h’ subsection 2, that “All imports shall continue to be assessed for duty at the rate of C.I.F value of the goods using the rate of exchange on the e-form M.”

The guideline above is so clear and very unambiguous for any custom officer to disregard. In furtherance to ensure that officers do not misrepresent the words of the precept, the management of the Customs board ensured that the duty paid value and the corresponding C.I.F is stated on the PAAR (Pre-Arrival Assessment Report) generated by the Customs for guidance in the payment of appropriate duty.

Unfortunately, the officers and men of the customs are still creating unpalatable situations in which importers and their representatives are subjected to unhealthy treatment like being compelled to part with money in terms of settlement or pay the unlawful difference between the exchange rate on the e-form M which represents what is on the PAAR and the prevailing exchange rate in the system which usually changes with time.

In the advent of destination inspection, the government effected some changes in the laws governing the collection of revenue to face out old ones that are no longer relevant in our time to restore sanity in the system. Section 37 of the CEMA states: “Duties shall be paid and on the rates i.e. percentage on C.I.F.” The provision does not incorporate exchange rate but duty rate. The said law was made in the 1970s when exchange rate was relatively stable and was not prone fluctuations

We have had cases in the recent past when the exchange rate of Naira appreciated before now in which importers were made to pay what was reflected on the e-form M. Without trying to be smart when the tide turned, officers are now subjecting importer (tax payers) to terrible situations despite the clarity of the law on the issue.

The men of the Nigeria Customs Service are fond of this dastardly act and should be made to stop it. They deliberately turn against the principles of the law because there are no easy ways of resolving such issues timely and also because of the fact that they are judges in their own court. I implore our policy makers to look into this because it is another way of sabotaging our economy. • Olubodun is a Lagos-based professional freight forwarder. Tel: 08091771723.


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