The Ministry of Finance, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Licence Customs Agents and other stakeholders have expressed reservations over the excessive power given to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and alleged infringement on existing laws and mandates of other agencies in the proposed amendment of the Customs Act.
They expressed their divergent views on some of the proposed amendments to the Act during the Public hearing held by the House of Representatives Committee on Customs on Tuesday.
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The Bill was titled: “A Bill for an Act to repeal the Customs and Excise Management Act, Cap C45,LFN, 2004, and enact The Nigeria Customs Service (Establishment) Bill, 2021, and for related matters (HB.1729”.
Making their separate presentations, the stakeholders said, some of the proposed amendments negated the provisions of existing laws of many government agencies whose power and mandates will be transferred to the Nigeria Customs Service.
Speaking, the minister of finance, budget and national planning, Zainab Ahmed said, the bill as presented seeks to create an autonomous customs body outside the supervision of the ministry of finance.
She said the proposal is not in consonance with international best practices.
Mrs Ahmed who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Ali Ahmed said, in most the developed nations and elsewhere, Customs Administration is under the supervision of the Ministry responsible for Finance, economic management.
The minister said the composition of the Board is bogus adding that, ministries like Aviation, Interior, Transportation and Foreign Affairs need not be represented on the Board of the NCS.
She said: “Also, the intention to replace the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning as the Chairman of the Board with an appointee of Mr President subject to confirmation by the National Assembly, will limit the supervisory authority of the Federal Government.
“This is not in alignment with Section 80 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which creates the Consolidated Revenue Fund and the provisions of Section 4 of the Finance (Management and Control) Act (2004) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
“The NCS does not have the mandate to collate and publish accurate trade statistics or enter into trade facilitation agreements on behalf of the Federal Government without the approval of the Minister and the Federal Executive Council as the Bill is proposing.
“Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investments are the MDAs charged with this mandate and it is not within the purview of the NCS to intend to enter into international trade facilitations and Agreements even as it relates to Customs Administration without the consultation and approval of ministry as directed by extant Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
The Minister also rejected the move to empower NCS to engage in border enforcement and regulatory activities which she said is an infringement on the mandate of the Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS) by virtue of the provisions of the Immigration Act (2004) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, which empowers the NIS to act to protect Nigeria’s borders.
She said, the NCS has the mandate to establish Customs Offices at the borders, but the protection of the nation’s borders is the mandate of the Nigeria Immigration Service(NIS) not the NCS as stated in the Bill.
“The Bill seeks to authorize the NCS to make regulations concerning the manufacture of beer, tobacco, carbonated drinks (etc) which is firmly an infringement on the provisions of the Nigeria Factories Act which places the mandate to oversee the manufacturing of certain products in the purview of the Minister of Industries, Trade and Investments and the Minister of Labour.
“Accordingly, since the activities of the NCS are directly related to fiscal and trade policies of the nation they should be subject to the direct supervision of the FMFBNP in line with the provisions of the Finance (Management and Control) Act and international best practices.”
FIRS, RMAFC ‘fight’ over revenue monitoring
Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) disagreed yesterday over the monitoring of revenues accruing to the Federation Account.
The chairmen of RMAFC and FIRS, Ellias Mbam and Muhammad Nami, respectively spoke at a public hearing on the Finance Bill 2021 organised by the Senate Committee on Finance.
While Mbam, in his submission, faulted Section 68(2) of the bill seeking exclusive power of revenue collection, monitoring and enforcement to FIRS, Nami said RMAFC functions were not threatened by the proposed legislation.
Mbam said: “The exclusivity clause of enforcement to FIRS should not be granted and as such, be expunged,”
The FIRS boss countered the submission, saying RMAFC mandate to monitor revenue is not exclusive as other relevant agencies or bodies like the
Budget Office, Office of Accountant General of the Federation, Ministry of Finance, Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) have concurrent mandate to monitor revenue.
Stakeholders describe provisions as draconian
In his submission, the Deputy President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Dr Segun Musa said most of the proposed amendments in the bill needed to be further looked into for further amendments and consultations.
According to him, the bill does not reflect the core mandate of trade facilitation and has given the Nigeria Customs Service an arbitrary power in section 31(3), to use force to search to cargoes without a warrant.
According to him, Customs officers from different units as well as other agencies take out goods as samples for testing or ascertaining contents of Containers which he said in most instances leave the Containers half empty.
He said, giving customs too much power will create more chaos in the business environment which will affect trade in the country.
On his part, a member of the Presidential Task Force on Customs reforms, Lucky Amiwer, rejected the proposed bill describing most of its provisions as draconian.
He said that after the Constitution, the Customs Act is the most powerful law in the country because it affects every sector of the polity.
According to him, if the bill is passed into law as it is, it will make customs the Judge, the jury, the lawyer, the prosecutor and the executor.
Amiwer said all the sections of the bill contravene treaties and international agreements as well as the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigeria Export Procession Zones Authority (NEPZA) and other stakeholders also expressed similar reservations.
We are still studying bill – Customs
In his submission, the representative of the Comptroller General (CG), Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd), who was Deputy Comptroller in charge of Finance, Mr David Chikan, said that they are still studying the bill and they will write the committee if they have any issue with the bill.
He said that what the committee proposed was for the country and indeed all Nigerians
In his address, the Committee Chairman, Leke Abejide (APC,Kogi) the Nigeria Customs Act regulations and operational guidelines are archaic, obsolete, and no longer in tandem with modern-day challenges.