Why UK Custom Clearance System Is Faster Than Nigeria’s
Even as the Nigerian Custom Service continues to struggle with the actualization of the 48hour clearance of goods from the port, coupled with the recent declaration of 24hours customs operations, facts have emerged on why the custom service of the United Kingdom is rated better than Nigeria and why the Nigeria customs has continued to grapple with the idea, even as a possible way out has been suggested.
According to the former Director of the UK Customs who was also the Director of Compliance and facilitation under the World Customs Organization (WCO) and presently the Senior Special Adviser to the Nigerian Custom Service on its Modernization Program; Mr. Doug Tweedle, there is a trust gap between the customs and the business community.
Tweedle who was speaking at the town hall meeting between the Nigeria Custom Service and the Importers in Lagos on Tuesday pointed out that the electronic system of goods clearance which is just being celebrated in Nigeria today has been introduced in the UK since 1971.
“The reasons why the UK has a rapid custom clearance than Nigeria is that e-clearance has been introduced in UK for over 40years ago and it is being developed since then”
He however assured that there is nothing to be ashamed of in this, saying that the Nigerian Custom still have to go further to integrate the custom systems with the custom brokers and agents, with the port inventory systems and the banks.
“One of the delays I see here is the financial arrangements, but with the right sort of electronic systems you can make the finance more instant and automatic”
He commended the energy and zeal with which the Controller General of the Nigeria Custom is using to reform the service and urged stakeholders to work with him to make change happen in Nigeria because according to him, open and transparent consultations between customs and the people in the society that they deal with is a very important part of a modern custom service.
Tweedle also recommended that the burden of bureaucracy and regulation at the ports must be checked to a minimum standard, but at the same time the correct duty and taxes must be collected while smuggling must be eliminated as possible as it can.
“I think the other big thing is data quality, I am sure you all know that in computer systems if you put garbage in you will get garbage out, and if you put garbage in the custom system it will stop the system and gets you back to the starting point, he urged all importers and their agents to get their data quality as high as they can so that the system can automatically give them the service needed”
Speaking further, he observed that “Honest importers and honest customs are on the same side and they need to work together for mutual advantage, the only thing the customs want is the right amount of duty as specified in the law, so if they both work and support each other, all their goals will be met for the benefit of the Nigerian society”
“To some extent, there is a trust gap between the customs and the business community, I go back forty years ago in the UK where the average custom officer or the business community are either fraudsters or potential fraudsters, the business community felt that the customs are only out to look after themselves, but now this culture has changed in the UK and if it is existing in Nigeria it has to change too, so there needs to be partnership between the custom and the business community” Tweedle advised
Speaking on the introduction of a single window system in Nigerian clearance process, he stressed that the scheme is very important because it will reduce the regulatory burdens and speed cargo through the ports and the borders, but that it require a collaborative effort between customs and other government agencies as well as the business community.
On the legislation on the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) of 2004, the WCO expert pointed out that when amended, the law will put the customs on a robust legal footing, it will allow more paperless and electronic ways of trading and further simplify procedures, “I think every everybody should do what they can to make sure the legislation goes through the parliamentary process”.
“The way the customs is funded and the proportion of the revenue may lead to wrong incentives, there should be a new way of funding customs” He said.