Monday, 24 December 2012 00:00
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Stakeholders accuse Customs of plots to ambush maritime industry

Mr. Lucky AmiweroStakeholders in the country maritime sector have accused the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) of trying to ambush the economy of the country.

The allegation is coming on the heels of the  Nigeria Customs Service Bill sent to the national assembly for considerations. They argued that  the controversial Bill which is currently before the Senate, if passed would hamper port operations, the Nigerian economy even as it is considered inimical to trade facilitation.

This was the submission made at a forum put together by Maritime Industry Advocacy Initiative [MAIN] in conjunction with Ports Gist and Event on TV.

According to the factional President of National Council of Managing Directors of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, Mr. Lucky Amiwero who is also a member of the Presidential committee on Reform of Customs, if the bill eventually scales through at the Senate, it will render the President of the country powerless on trade matters even as he stressed that the minister of finance would also have restricted regulatory power as contained from the bill sent to the Senate.

Quoting section 203, 206 and 207 of the bill, Amiwero alleged that  the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) will equally suffer untold hardship in the hands of the Customs if the Bill is allowed to  be passed into law.

He said, “Members of MAN are liable to face stringent jail terms if the bill eventually scales through, pointing out that MAN as body will be under the supervision of the Customs.”

Amiwero therefore called on stakeholders to critically look into the bill  because it will send a wrong signal for international trade and trade facilitation in the country.

 He also urged all stakeholders in the maritime sector to speak with one voice and  ensure that the bill is not passed into law.

 But for the Founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Boniface Aniebonam the bill  is fast moving, adding that the President of the country has the power to give directives over all the ports in the country.

He said that the bill will be examined by him and the association’s lawyer before the next meeting of the stakeholders which comes up on January 3, 2013.

He reiterated that the bill before the Senate is critical to the maritime industry, even as he called on stakeholders in the industry to unite and take responsibility of commitment and cooperation.

Remi Ogungbemi, the Chairman Association of Maritime Truck Owner gave kudos to the stakeholders for coming up with the vision to kill the bill.

Ogungbemi said, “Truck operators in the industry have suffered from various government policies some of these policies are draconian to us.”

He said many of the truck owners have suffered in the hands of customs as a result of seizure.

He also called on key stakeholders in the industry to lend their voice toward efforts to oppose the bill.

Similarly, Deputy National President of NAGAFF, Barrister Fred Akokhia lauded the organisers of the event for being proactive on critical issues as they affect the maritime industry.

Akokhia reiterated that the maritime industry serves as a means of livelihood to stakeholders therefore it must not be ambushed by the customs and called on everyone to contribute their own quota in ensuring that the bill is not passed by the senate.
According to him the bill was put together illegally, and those behind it have hidden agenda.

“We live in a society where certain people want to create favour for themselves The Customs Excise and Management Act is the operational fiscal document of the government and it is the head of the government that the customs is claiming should not have power to do certain things and putting it to someone who was appointed by the president of the country,” he pointed out.

Speaking in the same vein, Mrs Julie Ogboru from the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) described the bill a evil,  and called on stakeholders to take drastic actions to ensure that it is not passed into law as it will affect generations yet unborn.

Meanwhile, the Comptroller General of Customs, Alhaji Dikko Abdulahi Inde has however declared that the controversial Bill will soon be signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan.

While speaking during his visit to the Kirikiri Lighter Terminal and  Tin Can command of the Customs, Dikko assured the officers that the Customs Bill at will be forwarded to President Goodluck Jonathan in the next two weeks, even as he assured his officers and that the bill will be signed into law.