Why FG should urgently reform Customs, by LCCI
According to the chamber, the delay in clearance of cargo is severely hurting investors and adversely affecting economic recovery efforts.
In a statement yesterday, the LCCI noted that there are issues of undue delays, weak application of technology, arbitrariness in valuation, impunity, the uncertainty of international trade transactions, cost escalation, negative investment climate perception, ineffective mode of seeking redress, and pervasive human interface, among others.
The chamber alleged that many businesses had suffered severe disruptions in their investment projections because of large variations arising from revision of value and re-classification of imports by the PAAR Office at the Customs headquarters and the Customs units at the ports, adding that the situation was becoming a major source of uncertainty for businesses.
“The business community is compelled to interface with too many units of the Nigeria Customs Service and other government agencies, making doing business extremely difficult and frustrating. It also predisposes the system to brazen extortionist practices.
“These units include the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report [PAAR] office, valuation, examination, releasing, unblocking, DC report, stamping, exit gate, and enforcement. Other government agencies that businesses have to contend with at the ports include the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Plant Quarantine, SSS, Police Anti-Bomb Squad, and the Port Police. Outside the ports, importers are confronted with the federal operations unit of the Customs, Customs Strike Force, and the Customs Police.
“Encounters by the private sector with these numerous agencies impose an unbearable burden on importers and investors in terms of costs, time, and the bureaucracy. There are also recurring issues of valuation of imports and HS Code classification of products. PAAR issued by Customs headquarters are frequently queried by Customs operatives at the ports,” the LCCI complained.
According to the chamber, “The trade facilitation role of the Nigerian Customs Service has been practically jettisoned in pursuit of revenue targets. This disposition is impacting negatively on investors. There are too many queries on imports emanating from diverse sources and too many discretionary powers exercised by Customs operatives in valuation and classification decisions. The frustrations of importers are compounded by the clumsy and long-winded, bureaucratic processes for seeking redress. Importers hardly get a fair hearing because the Customs are the accusers and the judge. A fair, just, speedy appeal process is most urgently needed to save the private sector from the tyranny of the Customs Service.”
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