Director-General Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry LCCI Muda Yusuf, has called for immediate reforms of the Nigerian Custom Service NCS to make the agency to facilitate trade for the economy.

The LCCI boss made this known in a statement made available to newsmen yesterday.  Yusuf who said Customs processes and procedures for the clearance of cargo at the ports is one of the biggest challenges currently faced by the business community added that the activities of Customs at the Port are severely hurting investors and adversely affecting economic recovery efforts.

According to him, “There are issues of undue delays, weak application of technology, arbitrariness in valuation, impunity, uncertainty of international trade transactions, cost escalation, negative investment climate perception, ineffective mode of seeking redress, pervasive human interface, among others.”

“The business community is compelled to interface with too many units of the Nigerian customs service and other government agencies which makes doing business extremely difficult and frustrating.   It also predisposes the system to brazen extortionist practices.

“These units include the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report office, Valuation units, Examination, Releasing, Unblocking, DC Report, Stamping Unit, Exit Gate, Enforcement.”

Yusuf said the NCS procedures and processes for clearance of goods at the ports had posed a lot of challenges for the business community.

He said the challenges include undue delays, weak application of technology, arbitrariness in valuation, impunity, uncertainty of international trade transactions and cost escalation.

Others are negative investment climate perception, ineffective mode of seeking redress, pervasive human interface, among others.

Apart from Customs, he said other government agencies that businesses have to contend with at the ports include National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, Standards Organization of Nigeria, Plant Quarantine, Department of State Security Service, Police Anti Bomb Squad, and the Port Police.

Outside the ports, he said importers are confronted with Federal Operations Unit of the customs, Customs Strike Force, and the Customs Police.

He added, “Encounters by the private sector with these numerous agencies imposes unbearable burden on importers and investors in terms of costs, time, and the bureaucracy.

“There are also recurring issues of valuation of imports and HS Code classification of products. PAAR Issued by customs headquarters are frequently queried by customs operatives at the ports.

“Many businesses have suffered severe disruptions in their investment projections because of large variations arising from revision of value and re-classification of imports by the PAAR Office at the Customs headquarters and the Customs units at the ports.

“This phenomenon has become persistent and hurting investors.  It has also become a major source of uncertainty for businesses.

“The trade facilitation role of the Nigerian Customs Service has been practically jettisoned in pursuit of revenue targets.

“This disposition is impacting negatively on investors.  There are too many queries on imports emanating from diverse sources and too many discretionary powers exercised by customs operatives in valuation and classification decisions.”

Yusuf said the frustrations of Importers are compounded by the clumsy, long winded, bureaucratic processes for seeking redress. “Importers hardly get fair hearing because the customs are the accusers and the judge.

“A fair, just, speedy appeal process is most urgently needed to save the private sector from the tyranny of the Nigerian customs service. ” It is imperative for the federal government to urgently domesticate the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement to which Nigeria is a signatory. Nigeria ratified on 16th January 2017,” he concluded.

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