Agents: Customs underfunded

Dr. Boniface Aniebonam

The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has petitioned President Goodluck Jonathan over the underfunding of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).

The association said inadequate funding was affecting the performance of the NCS and the Transformation Agenda of the administration.

In a letter titled: Re: Transformation Programme and Port Reforms of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, dated August 5, and sent to Jonathan by the founder of the group, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, the group claimed that the service was being incapacitated by the Federal Ministry of Finance and that this is affecting freight forwarding.

It said: “We have observed from our strategic point as critical stakeholders that at the moment, it is apparent that the Nigeria Customs Service is being underfunded, which may be affecting its operations and the freight forwarding business”.

Aniebonam urged Jonathan to free the custom from the lackluster performing Webb fontaine, alleging that the frequent breakdown of its equipment was taking severe toll on service delivery to the port users.

He said: The constant down time of the ASYCUDA system being handled and managed by Webb fontaine most times, slows down automation. We suggest that the Nigeria custom service be allowed to build a robust system that can accommodate and resolve the problem of down time syndrome.  This is a capital project, which cannot be satisfactorily handled with the underfunding of the Nigeria custom administrator and management.

“It is in the public domain that between 2010 and2014 [up to July], the approved budget for the service may be N378.97 billion. Our checks reveled that Nigeria custom service may have just received N279.42 billion, leaving a balance of N99.55 billion. We have observed that the morale of officers is very low because their entitlements are most times, they are not attended to.

“It is a fact that the Nigeria custom service is a very critical agency of the government saddled with huge responsibility which include, but not limited to revenue collection, anti-smuggling functions, inter-agency support service, business development and trade information service, post audit function provision of trade statistic and trade facilitation among others.”

Aniebonam said under the destination inspection policy, the NCS has given additional duty to manage and maintain scanners, training of officers and other capital project that would enhance and sustain its operations.

He said the low funding does not give the NCS sufficient leverage to add value to business at the port. “As Nigerians, we are equally worried because the Nigeria is facing some security challenges, we wish to remind your Excellency, that the anti-smuggling function of the service is strategic on matters pf boarder security,” he said

He  proffered solution, saying : “ The way forward should include the much-expected new custom law pending at the national assembly seeking to grant the service partial autonomy.”   —THE NATION