From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
The Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has vowed to resist the practice by officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) arm-twisting clearing agents in borderline arguments in order to meet their yearly targets.
Reacting over the weekend to the reported over N2 trillion revenue target set for the agency this year, ANLCA Secretary-General, Mr. Babatunde Mukaila, said the association was not against any height the agency wants to reach, but it must not be by cheating, and trade facilitation must be the means.
“Customs can target N10 trillion, they have every right to target whatever they want to, provided they do trade facilitation and are not arm-twisting people to get at that target,” he said.
Presently, he explained, in the event of a borderline argument on a declaration, customs officers charge the affected trader “20 per for the controversial classification and then slam another 25 per cent as penalty for calling it a wrong name, just to hit their target.
“That is what they have been doing to help them meet their target, and it has to stop. The law says you can penalise somebody for willful wrong classification to discourage such person or entity, but not when there is an argument to settle.”
He regretted that the “distraction” from internal wrangling, with unauthorised persons making public statements contrary to the president’s position, had weakened ANLCA’s standpoint in sufficiently defending members against such fraudulent practices by the customs.
“So, these distractions have whittled down the position of ANLCA; that is why the president in his wisdom is bending backwards to say, ‘ok, let’s accommodate ourselves, forget about the misgivings and work for the betterment of the ordinary members of ANLCA.
However, “ANLCA will get back. It has always got back on its feet and this distraction will not be an exception. I want to say that this year, customs will facilitate trade and will get what they deserve, but we will not allow them to arm-twist the Nigerian trader to arrive at that target.
“They will collect the appropriate duty, not a duty to enable them get to their target. We are not pledging to help them realise their target, rather, if what they deserve is N700 million, that is what they will get. We are not going to sit and watch them fabricate positions out of the book.
“So, ANLCA is going to do what we need to do – cooperate with customs on a very good standing and equal strength. We will help them if they are ready to play by the rule, not to arm-twist traders.”