The Senate has begun moves to reform the Customs Act by receiving input from Nigerians and various interest groups.
The organised private sector advocated for the expansion of the Board membership of the Nigeria Customs Service to include, the Nigeria Ports Authority and Nigeria Shippers’ Council, as part of efforts to make operations of the ports more efficient.
Their submission was made on Monday in Abuja, during a one day public hearing on the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) repeal and re-enactment bill 2016.
The group also wants the Minister of Finance to be Chairman of the Board instead of the Comptroller General of Customs Service, to avoid duplication of duties and ensure effective checks and balances in managing the country’s ports.
According to the group, the Customs Service Board with the Finance Minister as Chairman will ensure that fiscal policies and direction of government are made manifest in the daily operations of the Service.
They also submitted that the ECOWAS rule of origin should be reviewed to check incessant cases of abuse, and protect Nigerian market in particular and that of West Africa as a whole.
President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki who declared the event open, emphasised the need to strengthen the Nigerian Customs Service in order to boost government revenue and professionalism among its personnel.
“The Customs remain one of the most important sources of government revenues. With government revenues dwindling rapidly at a time when we have so much to do, this has further made the need for us to block all leakages and possible inefficiency points in our revenue profile an urgent national duty.
When the 8th Senate came on board, we promised that we would seek to introduce new laws to improve revenue generation, curb corruption, improve on accountability and governance. This bill is one of those bills, which even our private sector has identified as critically important to doing business, and relates significantly to the cost of doing business in general.”
Earlier in his welcome address, the Chairman Senate committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, Senator Hope Uzodinma said the goal of the new bill was to ensure that all necessary legislative frameworks were put in place to make the department the revenue hub of Nigeria.
“Part of our vision of a modernized department will feature involvement of service providers especially in high-tech areas such as examination of goods, boarder control, automation of revenue collection processes and strong monitoring and compliance unit,” he added.
Some members of the organized private sector that participated in the public hearing include, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association as well as the National Association of Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture.
The public sector was also represented by the CBN, Finance Ministry, Ministry of Justice, and Attorney General of the Federation and others.