The League of Maritime Editors (LOME) on Monday advised the administration of President Ahmed Bola Tinubu against proposal to merge the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) as one single agency to be known as the Nigerian Revenue Service (NRS).
The League described such proposal as not only misleading the new administration but is ill-conceived, and appealed to the president not be accord the proposal sails through.
Describing the proposal as anti-people, the group added that those behind the idea failed to consider the obvious dire consequences associated with merger which include mass sack of employees in all the agencies involved.
In a statement signed by the President of the League, Chief Timothy Okorocha, Secretary, Mr Felix Kumuyi and the Public Relations Officer, Mr Francis Ugwoke, the League argued that the Customs Service and NIMASA have different statutory roles to play as established by laws setting them up.
The statement pointed out that Customs is specifically for trade facilitation at different seaports, airports and border stations from where it also collects prescribed duties on such goods entering the country.
According to the statement, the only statutory obligation being performed by the Customs which is close to that of the FIRS is excise duty collection, noting such incidental tax collection is not enough to call for the merger of the NCS with the others.
In the case of NIMASA, the statement said the agency was set up to regulate the maritime sector in terms of ships coming different destinations and those operating locally and using her territorial waters.
Beyond this role, the statement said, NIMASA is known for “indigenous shipping development, maritime safety administration; maritime labour regulation; marine pollution prevention and control; search and rescue; provision of direction and ensuring compliance with vessels security measures; air and coastal surveillance; Cabotage enforcement; ship registration; training and certification of seafarers and marine capacity development.”
According to the League, there is no role carried out by NIMASA that is closely related with FIRS and Customs to call for the merger of the three agencies.
The League further notes that the only link is the collection of the three percent levy from vessels calling at the nation’s ports which is essentially administrative cost designed to promote indigenous shipping development.
Besides, both NIMASA and Customs are key contributors to the consolidated revenue fund just like FIRS, the statement said.
“Customs like FIRS which recorded N10.1trillion last year had also recorded N2.7 trillion in 2022 while withholding only 5 percent allowed by law to carry out its statutory functions.
“NIMASA had also contributed the sum of N37.69 billion to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) in 2021, N31.83bn in 2020 and has been doing so over the years.
“The present administration should not consider introducing any policy that will inflict pains on already traumatized Nigerians considering that many thousands of youths graduate every year without hope of where to gain employment.
“Merging these three agencies will lead to more sack and reduction in employment opportunities for Nigerian youths in these agencies. Government should look for other ways of checking capital expenditure in these agencies and save money but certainly not thriugh merge.”
The statement continues:
“Right now, Customs has a staff strength of about 16,000 personnel, FIRS has about 12,000 workers while NIMASA has about 2,000, should government merge the agencies, the strength of the agencies to be known as ‘Nigerian Revenue Service’ (NRS) will go down by more than half.
“It will be survival of the fittest, only those who are connected to the Presidency, governors, senators and high level monarchs will remain. This is not good for the economy. It will not even be good for the image of the administration”.
The League advised that merger should be for agencies not doing well and not five-star agencies.