Customs assures efficient service delivery, set to optimize trade facilitation

The Customs Area Controller of Tincan Island Port Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Comptroller Dera Nnadihas assured freight forwarders and the trading community that TinCan Command will optimize service delivery and facilitate trade to reduce the effects of the sudden increase in exchange rate on their businesses.

Comptroller Nnadi stated this while fielding questions from guests at the Silver Jubilee celebration of the League of Maritime Editors (LOME) held on Thursday, November 7, 2023, in Lagos.

It could be recalled that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN had on Thursday morning increased the exchange rate for the calculation of customs duty from seven hundred and eighty-three naira, one hundred and seventy-four Kobo (N783. 174k) per dollar to nine hundred and fifty one nairas, nine hundred and forty one Kobo (N951.941) per dollar. An indication of an upsurge in the cost of clearing cargoes at the nation’s seaports.

While fielding questions after delivering a paper on “The new customs act and its implication on trade”, Comptroller Nnadiassured the freight forwarders that his command would try to facilitate trade where delays are experienced in customs processes to make up for the sudden increase in the exchange rate.

“We will try and facilitate trade so that whatever little thing you would have paid as demurrage can be used to make up for this and that’s the one I can manage. The other ones, the Nigeria Customs Service cannot manage it because it’s a function of the federal government’s directive,” he explained.

Relaying how the upsurge also affects officials of NCS, Comptroller Nnadi said, “There’s no supermarket where they sell customs’ bread, all of us buy from the same place. Everything that happens to the economy affects customs officers too. And for your information, I am sure you have contacts or friends who relate with you, I have seen the National Vice President of ANLCA here, and I am sure your members may have called you.

“Just before I came here, I addressed the issue that Funso alluded to. We woke up this morning, remember I used the word “we”, that tells you that the Nigeria Customs … We woke up this morning and found out that the exchange rate which is the yardstick for collection of customs duty, which before June/July, was four hundred and twenty naira, per dollar. By July, it jumped down to seven hundred and seventy-five naira per dollar, shortly after, it jumped down to seven hundred and seventy-eight naira per dollar. This morning, it increased to nine hundred and fifty-one points, nine four one per dollar.

“We understand the implications of this to trade bearing in mind that letters of credit have been opened, contracts have been signed, supply requirements have been made, people have negotiated business transactions and decisions on business have been taken based on the existing exchange rate. And we recognized the import of this exchange rate adjustment especially when it is done without a prior notice on trade.

“Before I came here, Prince Segun Oduntan asked his members, I addressed freight forwarders in Tincan Island Port this morning. It was part of the reason I came in late. I had to address freight forwarders this morning and I asked my Secretary to prepare a press statement for me and told him what to write that I would give to the media. It is good that I am here now.

“We recognize what the Nigerian business Community is going through now but there is little we can do about fiscal and monetary policies, our role is to implement them. We didn’t make them up but we align ourselves with government policies.

“Every government decision taken is for the collective interest of the nation and I expect that we must all abide by it. “What I expect that we should do as customs now, which I told the freight forwarders and the clearing agents this morning is that, to mitigate the impact of what they are going to go through in the next few days because of this, we are aware that having charged their clients, the importers what it will cost them to clear these goods, and then, with this sudden increase in exchange rate, if they go back to those importers, the importers may find it difficult to raise the money to give to them to make up. In the course of that, there may be delays and demurrage will be incurred on those cargoes.

“So, on my part as customs, what I told the clearing agents this morning, before I came here was that, we will optimize our service delivery.”

The CAC maintained that “it is expected that Nigerians should understand that most of our trade activities are highly subsidized. There are no two ways about it. I served in Seme, and I know that every morning, it was very easy for people from the Benin Republic to trek into Nigeria to buy items and go back. That does not mean that one will support that there should be an increase in our tariff regimes and rates all the time, but I also expect that Nigerians should be patriotic enough to obey government policies when they are issued because every government policy is always issued in the best interest of the nation.”

On the apprehension that the development may fuel smuggling of goods into the country, Nnadi quipped, “Of course, for every customs officer, not just in Nigeria but globally, one of our greatest challenges is trying to manage trade facilitation with issues of compliance. It’s very difficult but then, that’s why we are in the port, that’s why we are customs officers.

“The issue of forty-three items that were denied access to Forex threw up so many challenges in the system and we tried to address it and we did address it. So, if this one also drops another challenge, the same way we addressed the other one, we will also address this. So, don’t be discouraged,” he maintained.