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ANLCA warns FG over Customs’ $3.1 billion deal

By Adaku Onyenucheya
24 January 2022   |   4:00 am
The Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has warned President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, against signing the proposed $3.1 billion Nigeria Customs Service...

National President, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Iju Tony Nwabunike

The Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has warned President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, against signing the proposed $3.1 billion Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) modernisation deal, describing it as a debt trap that must be avoided.

The National President of ANLCA, Tony Nwabunike, told journalists after the association’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Lagos, at the weekend, that “Nigeria is already sinking in foreign debts,” and should, therefore, avoid going into a deal that will make Nigeria obligated to paying back for 20 years a service of lesser value.

Debt Management Office (DMO) had disclosed that Nigeria’s public debt rose to N38.005 trillion by the third quarter of 2021, from N35.465 trillion at the end of the second quarter of same year, with the Federal Government targeting a reduction in total public debt by 2025 as stated in the National Development Plan 2021-2025.

Counselling the President, Nwabunike also called on the National Assembly take closer look at every detail in the contract documents and scrutinise them in the overall interest of the nation.

His words: “We want to also advise the Federal Government to be careful before signing into the $3.1billion Customs modernisation project, which, we heard, will run for 20 years. We urge Buhari and the finance minister to avoid assenting to the deal.

“Nigeria is already in serious debt, and Customs, being a strategic non-oil revenue earner for government, should not be tied to another long term repayment for two decades.”

Nwabunike, who also faulted the N4.1 trillion 2022 target of the NCS, described the sum as outrageous and will lead to poor functioning of the economy through undue double taxation that is capable of frustrating businesses.

He noted that the target would place the NCS under pressure of high revenue collection and undermine the trade facilitation role the service should render.

According to him, pursuing bigger revenue and failing to strengthen trade will result in greater losses to the country, as investments are threatened, reduced or made non-existent due to harsh taxation regime

“Giving these seemingly outrageous targets will undermine the productivity of the overall economy. Totality of Customs efforts deployed into revenue pursuit reduces the service productivity in many ways,” he added.