By Innocent Orok
The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Colonel Hameed Ibrahim Ali has warned Smugglers and the communities harbouring them that the Service will no longer tolorate the killings of Customs Officers.
Ali hannded down this warning during this year International Customs Day celebrations. He said management would no longer tolerate the incessant killing of its officers by smugglers, vowing that appropriate force would henceforth be applied in its anti-smuggling operations.
The 2019 International Customs Day (ICD) is with the theme “Smart Border for Seamless Trade, Travel and Transport,”.
The Customs boss also said the Service intends to swell its revenue generation by acquiring non-intrusive equipment to boost trade facilitation, while ensuring that stakeholders comply with trade rules.
He said the Nigeria Customs generated N904.072 billion in 2015, N898.673 billion in 2016, N1.037 trillion in 2017 and N1.202 trillion in 2018 respectively, making a total of N4.042 trillion from 2015 to 2018.
He advice the Federal government to reduce the duty paid on vehicles so as to discourage smuggling and to generate more revenue for the government.
Ali explained: “We have 35 percent duty and 35 percent levy, and so if you import a brand new vehicle into Nigeria, you pay 70 percent duty.
From what we have done, and based on statistics, we discovered that this duty has now driven most of our importers to our neighbouring ports and also it has increased the rate of smuggling into this country of new vehicles.
“Having interacted with our stakeholders, we discovered from what they said that the sudden increase in duty is what is driving them. And since 35 percent duty cannot be tinkered with, the one that can be tinkered with which is a policy by the Nigerian government.
The35 percent was put in order to encourage our automotive industry to ensure that it is developed.
Ifwe reduce the levy, the volume of cars that would be imported into Nigeria will increase and the revenue from the NCS will increase.
“So we are advising that the government review the levy and we are asking that it should be reduced to about 10 percent. If you do that, then it will mean that the collective duty on a new vehicle will be about 45 percent. That is 35 percent duty and ten percent levy.
Withthat, we will eventually get an increase in the volume of vehicles that are imported, smuggling will be reduced and, therefore, we will realise more revenue and the lives of our people will be saved.”
On the rampant killing of Customs officers on official duties, Ali said;
“Enough is enough. We won’t take it anymore. If host communities decide to side with criminals, then it means they are all criminals and will treat them as such. These killings have to stop.
“Border communities, parents, guardians, traditional rulers, and other stakeholders should call their wards to order. We will take up arms to protect our officers and men.
“We urge border dwellers to report smugglers’ activities. These are economic saboteurs. We need to jointly protect the country”, he said.
Ali listed challenges facing Customs to include: porous borders, inadequate non-intrusive equipment, hostile border community dwellers, high level of non-formal trades, low implementation of ECOWAS Protocol on transit and low level of compliance among international trade actors, among other issues.
The Service is given a N887billion revenue target for 2019, which the Customs boss promised to surpass in the year.