The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry has called for urgent reform of the Nigeria Customs Service to complement government and private sector’s efforts at economic recovery.
Dr Muda Yusuf, the Director-General of LCCI made the call in a statement to newsmen on Sunday in Lagos.
Yusuf said the NCS procedures and processes for clearance of goods at the ports had posed a lot of challenges for the business community.
Yusuf said the challenges included undue delays, weak application of technology, arbitrariness in valuation, impunity, uncertainty of international trade transactions and cost escalation.
Others are negative investment climate perception, ineffective mode of seeking redress, pervasive human interface, among others.
He said that the situation called for urgent intervention, adding that it was discouraging investors and adversely affecting the economic recovery efforts.
“The business community is compelled to interface with too many units of the Nigeria Customs Service and other government agencies, which makes doing business extremely difficult and frustrating.
“It also predisposes the system to brazen extortions by some officials at the ports
“These units include the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) office, valuation units, examination, releasing, unblocking, stamping unit and enforcement.
“Other government agencies that businesses have to contend with at the ports include National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Standards Organisation of Nigeria, Plant Quarantine, SSS, Police Anti Bomb Squad, and the Port Police.
“Outside the ports, importers are confronted with Federal Operations Unit of the customs, Customs Strike Force, and the Customs Police.
“Encounters by the private sector with these numerous agencies imposes unbearable burden on importers and investors in terms of costs, time, and the bureaucracy,” he said.
Yusuf said that recurring issues of valuation of imports and code classification of products had caused many businesses to suffer severe disruptions in their investment projections.
“PAAR issued by the Customs headquarters are frequently queried by customs operatives at the ports.
“Many businesses have suffered severe disruptions because of large variations arising from revision of value and re-classification of imports by the PAAR office at its headquarters and the Customs units at the ports.
“The trade facilitation role of the Nigeria Customs Service has been practically jettisoned in pursuit of revenue target.
“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, long winded, bureaucratic processes for seeking redress.
“Importers hardly get 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,” he said
Yusuf also urged government to domesticate the World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreements which Nigeria ratified in January, 2017.