…Seeks for the sacking of Webb Fontaine
The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has expressed strong concern with perceived, deliberate underfunding of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), and stressed the need, for partial autonomy of the Service, from the Federal Ministry of Finance.
Already, the group has dispatched a letter, ref: NAGAFF/HQ/01/F/101/36 dated August 5, 2014, to President Goodluck Jonathan, stressing the un-acceptability of underfunding of the Customs, if the revenue yielding platform should be expected to continue to facilitate trade, in addition to intensifying its security watch, on the nation’s borders.
“We have observed from our strategic point as critical stakeholders that at the moment, it is apparent that the Nigeria Customs Service is being under funded which may be currently affecting its operations and the freight forwarding business”, the group declared in its letter, signed by the NAGAFF founder, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, stressing that its understanding of the President Jonathan’s transformation agenda implies a genuine desire “to usher in development and prosperity to the Nigerian people”.
Highlighting that the body wrote in view of its role “as very critical stakeholders in the maritime transport, freight forwarding and Customs facilitation sector”, Dr. Aniebonam also advised President Jonathan to un-burden the Customs of the lack-luster performing Webb Fontaine, as its increasing equipment breakdown was already taking severe toll on Service delivery to the port users.
“The constant down time of the ASYCUDA System being handled and managed by Webb Fontaine most time slow down automation. We suggest that the Nigeria Customs Service be allowed to build a robust system that can accommodate and resolve the problem of down time syndrome. This is capital project which cannot be satisfactory handled with the current under-funding of the Nigeria Customs administration and management”, he posited further, adding that the need for timely release of funds is underscored by the fact that the anti-smuggling officers were already facing tougher resistance daily, from smugglers who have sophisticated arms.
“Your Excellency, it is in the public domain that between 2010 and 2014 (up to July) the approved budget for the Service may be N378,974,132,999.80.
“Our checks revealed that Nigeria Customs Service may have just received N279,423,858,602.50 leaving a balance of N99,550,274,397.30. We have observed that the morale of officers is very low because their entitlements are not being paid on time and most times, they are not attended to.
“It is a fact that the Nigeria Customs Service is a very critical Agency of the Government saddled with huge responsibilities which include but not limited to revenue collection, anti-smuggling functions, inter agency support service, business development and trade information services, post
audit function, provision of trade statistics and trade facilitation etc.
“Under the Destination Inspection Policy the Nigeria Customs Service has been given additional duty to manage and maintain scanners, capacity building in the area of training of officers and building super structures and other capital projects that will enhance and sustain its operations.
“We are concerned because its current problem of under-funding does not add value to our businesses in the Customs ports. As Nigerians, we are equally worried because the Nigerian State is facing some security challenges. We wish to remind your Excellency, that the anti-smuggling function of the service is strategic on matters of border security.
“It is no longer news that our borders are porous which is aiding the activities of criminal elements like the Boko Haram”, the group noted further, urging Jonathan to investigate why the Service, despite its strategic importance to the success of the transformation agenda, was still being underfunded.
“It is our view that the Nigeria Customs Service should be excised from Finance Ministry and granted partial autonomy because of the strategic nature of the agency. The Nigeria Customs Service administration and management should be proactive and efficient to the glory of the Nigerian people and the economy.
“The way forward should include the much expected new Customs law pending at the National Assembly seeking to grant the Service partial autonomy”, the NAGAFF founder, concluded.