Group Petitions Buhari, Picks Holes In Customs 2022 Bill
…Says Bill Anti- Trade facilitation, Manufacturing
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
The National Council of Managing Directors of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDNLCA) has petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari about the ongoing Nigeria Customs Service 2022 Draft Bill pending before the National Assembly, noting that not only is the bill in conflict with the functions of other agencies of government but will in the long run interfere adversely with the national economy and international trade.
The customs brokerage group in its letter signed by its President, Mr. Lucky Eyis Amiwero drew President Buhari’s attention to unwholesome conflict areas in the bill; noting that the observed conflicts if not urgently reviewed and properly legislated could hamper trade facilitation and impair the nation’s import and export activities, and also adversely affect the nation’s manufacturing potentials.
Top among the drawback of the new bill is the scheme to seek the creation of the Ministry of Customs with a further constitutional clause that seek the appointment of a retired customs officer as minister.
Amiwero expressed shock that the proposed law did not only failed to be subjected to stakeholders/public hearing at the senate, but alerted that the same bill which was rejected earlier by the Federal Government in 2013 got represented to both houses of the legislature; noting that some element of desperation on the side of the customs service may have been at play.
The petition also drew attention to the prospect of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria losing authority and control over the customs service, same with the present supervising ministry of finance; which will make the customs service overtly autonomous, making it too powerful, politically and economically.
The National Council notes that unless an urgent review of some of the clauses is carried, there are strong indications that the service would ultimately take over the functions of sister agencies of government; and could afford to do as it wish.
The petition reads in part: “The report from the Senate on the Nigeria Customs Service Bill of 2022 do not reflect the objective of trade facilitation process, which is predicated on Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) World Customs Organization (WCO) Kyoto convention Harmonization and Simplification of Customs procedures, WCO Safe Frame work of standard to secure and Facilitate global trade, National Facilitation Committee of (IMO)FAL convention for Harmonization , Minimization and Facilitation of Maritime Traffic.
“Furthermore, the Nigeria Customs Service is not under the Ministry of Finance in the draft bill as indicated in paragraph 3.0 (1-5) clause 8-(3)(a) indicate that there is a new Minster of Customs to be appointed by the President.”
The petitioner also drew attention to the personalized content of the bill in addition to moves to isolate various global authorities and conventions in world trade and customs administration.
“The Nigeria Customs Service bill is designed and personalised for the management of the Nigeria Customs Service based on the removal of some power of the President and the total removal of the ministers and the overriding powers of other federal government agencies.
“Globally, the title of the Act is structured by the content based on the application of international convention, treaties, protocol on Trade procedures, which is mostly titled as follows: Customs Act, Trade Act, Customs and Excise Act, Customs Management Act, and Customs and Excise management Act.
“In the draft bill, Nigeria Customs Service was unduly allocated with uncontrollable powers over the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed forces, the Ministers and other government agencies on policy making, regulation of the economy on trade and Fiscal policies and other matters, which negate the principle of global best practice on administration, control and management of Trade/Customs Act.”
According to the group, what the Senate and House of Representatives have done so far was to repeal the existing administrative structure which provides the presidency to oversight the functions of the customs service.
“The repeal and re-enactment bill 2022 conferred all Function and powers to Nigeria Customs Service which includes: to manage and enforce the provision of the act, and the Customs and Excise law, direct, administer, direct manage and enforce provision of the Act, the Customs and Excise Laws, collect and account for revenue from Customs duties, Excise duties, other taxes, charges, fee and special assessments as may be assigned, administer trade and fiscal policies of the Government as it relate to this Act, promote trade facilitation in line with International Conventions and Agreements as it relate to Customs Administration, carry out all border enforcement and regulatory activities required by law.
“The Minister who shall be appointed by the president shall be a retired officer not below the rank of a Deputy Comptroller-General, thus the Board has no power, it is only to superintend over staff matters.”
Citing various constitutional provisions, treaties and conventions on world trade and customs administration, Amiwero stated further: “Policy initiation and regulation of the economy by the instruments of trade are the preserve of the executive arm of the federal government as contained in the provision of section 148 of the constitution, which only allow the President, Vice and the Ministers on Foreign and Domestic policy directions.
“The Federal Minister of Finance as the Chairman of the Board and the Custodian of the Act, by the provision of Section 4-(1)(2)(3) and 5-(1) in addition to the provision under section 148 of the Constitution, to seek for the withdrawal of the controversial draft bill from the National Assembly, which was not subjected to stakeholders/public hearing at the senate.
“There is a need to subject the draft bill to Committee of Trade Procedure Experts (TPE), and core stakeholders, to review the draft bill in line with international best practice, especially with the expected Trade Facilitation Agreement (FTA) and African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) coming on board, which is not included in the draft bill.”
Amiwero who have served in over a hundred ministerial and presidential committees said he has identified 283 clauses in Nigeria Customs Service bill 2022, and promised to avail the federal government a comprehensive and analytical review of all the grey areas in line with international best practices.