Nigerian Customs benchmark war deepens…As stakeholders laments customs anxiety over US$6.2 bn target

LAGOS-The raging controversies over the issuance of customs duty benchmark on some  items by the Nigeria Customs Service expectedly  took the center stage at the Custom Comptroller General’s parley with licensed customs agents earlier today in Lagos.

While the stakeholders accuse the Nigerian Customs of anxiety to meet its 6.2 billion dollars (N1trillion) target, the Customs boss, Alhaji Dikko Abdulahi explained the controversies surrounding the recent introduction of benchmarks on duties payable on cargoes coming into the country, saying that the policy is based on the cargoes imported into the country and not on their values.

The Customs Boss further explained that contrary to the widespread impression that it had placed benchmark of value of goods, it has actually only introduced the policy on cargoes.

The licensed customs agents who lamented that the contentious issue of valuation has led to the loss of huge revenue by Nigeria as vessels are now diverting to the neighboring countries because of the excesses of the Nigeria Customs Service, also insisted that the real reason for the bench mark valuation initiative is the anxiety of the Nigeria Customs Service to meet N1 trillion revenue targets for 2012.

But, Dikko said that “the issue of benchmark was misunderstood, and some people were even writing to Mr. President that we issued benchmark on value, but I think the person is misinformed or he probably wants to be mischievous, we did not issue benchmark on value, we issue benchmark on cargo” he said.

He also appealed to all the stakeholders to cooperate with the service in order to realize the N1trillion revenue target given to it by the federal government.

He had, while addressing the stakeholders at the conference room of the Apapa Area 1 Command of the Nigeria Customs Service said that leaders of the three major associations ANCLA, NAGAFF and National Council of Managing Directors met in Abuja to iron out major areas of critical to the smooth operation in the sector.

At a stage, the parley was getting hot, so much that journalists who had trooped in large number were ordered out of the venue of the meeting by the Deputy National PRO Mr. Joseph Attah.

Even though the media was deliberately shut out of the meeting,it was gathered that the CG has also put a stop to the inspection of clearing documents by the Customs Investigation Unit (ICU) following reports of alleged bribery by officers of the unit.

While fielding questions from journalists, founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Dr. Boniface Aniebonam called on freight forwarders to be appreciative of the efforts of the Customs.

“I think what the Custom is trying to do is to look at the economy of the nation and probably stay away from actions that will lead to confiscation of peoples import and thereby imposing penalty on those who circumvent” he said.

But Chief Osualala Nwagbara and Hon Chukwumalu Emeka of the Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders Importers and Exporters Coalition said in a reaction to the Customs new policy that: “Nigeria Customs Servics cannot justify the introduction of bench mark valuation with the excuse that by so doing 48 hours clearance time line policy will be met

They said:  “Will the bench mark valuation system dispense with scanning. If yes what will be the effect on our import policy and national security. Will it dispense with 100 % examination where it is ordinarily applicable under the 2006 Import Guidelines? he queried.

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