CEMA Update: Customs Faults Claim of Rejection
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
Following widespread speculation that the reviewed Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) has failed presidential assent, presumably on clauses allegedly termed ‘anti-trade’, the Nigeria Customs Service has clarified the development, noting that there were nothing in the reviewed bill that can be termed detrimental to trade facilitation.
The Customs Service reaction is coming on the heel of media reports about the purported jubilation by freight forwarders over the withholding of assent to the CEMA Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Customs Service notes that the freight forwarders posturing is uncalled for and capable of misleading innocent Nigerians, and further notes that the present narrative does not convey the true picture of what transpired during the partnership engagements that preceded the passage of the bill at both houses of the legislature.
According to the Customs Lagos Zonal Public Relations Officer, CSC Uche Ejesieme, freight forwarders and customs jaw-jaw and reached a consensus in the draft submissions made to the legislative hearing of both houses on the review of CEMA; saying it is a betrayal to now turn around to make the customs service look like the bad guy in a bargain that was mutually debated.
Ejesieme who dropped his observation in the customs-media online platform in reaction to freight forwarders expression of delight at the development said:
“This narrative about outright proposed CEMA review and rejection is not entirely correct. I think I stand a better chance to inform us that there was a consensus between the committee from customs led by the legal adviser, comprising members of the National Assembly Committee on Customs, legal drafting experts from ministry of justice and representatives of the Minister of Justice, to effect some corrections in the proposed bill.
“The meeting was held at REIZ Continental Hotel Abuja about a month now and yours faithfully was also privileged to be at that meeting alongside the Ag chairman of the Committee and ACG Human Resources Department with other very senior officers.
“Let it be on record that the review was intended to upgrade some of the extant laws to align with current global realities and nothing in tbe CEMA is intended to be anti clearing agents or any other group for that matter.”
The ace customs image maker also said that it is a misrepresentation to say that the CEMA Bill was rejected, claiming it was merely returned for the benefit of additional input through a mutual request by affected stakeholders to enrich the act.
“And so it’s not a case of outright rejection but a mutual agreement with the parties to effect necessary corrections to enable us have a perfect document. The legal drafting experts in that meeting are the best the ministry can afford and they really demonstrated legal expertise.
“Same for the committee from customs that were carefully selected from a team of highly cerebral very senior officers most of whom are part of the modernisation team of the service. Permit me therefore to disabuse our minds from the erroneous impression being peddled all over the media”, he added.
In the same vein, few intellectual practitioners including Chidi Opara, notable freight forwarders disclaimed the propriety of suggestion that the presidential refusal to assent to the bill has anything to do with freight forwarders or anti-trade facilitation.
Reacting earlier to one of the groups that started the propaganda, Chidi Opara, an unapologetic practitioner explained that the Council for the regulation of Freight forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), to which freight forwarding associations are asking to cash in on the new development to make new inputs amounts to wishful thinking.
“The bill was not rejected because of anything specifically concerning freight forwarders. The affected clauses have been identified and non have anything directly to do with the interest of freight forwarders. The only areas where amendments are required would be the identified areas and since the rejection wasn’t based on specific freight forwarding issues, new CRFFN clauses would not be accepted.”