The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is an independent service under the supervision of the Nigerian Ministry of Finance. The Nigeria Customs Service is responsible for the collection of customs revenues for the federal government, the facilitation of both national and international trade, and in charge of anti-smuggling activities through the borders. Nigeria customs service is an important agency in the generation of revenue for the country. In 2019, the Nigeria Customs Service is reported to have generated a total amount of 1.3 trillion naira as revenue.
Problems of the Nigeria Customs Service & Solutions
Unfortunately, also, the Nigeria Customs Service is known to have a reputation that has been marred by numerous allegations of corruption and fraud scandals. Even till date, it is common for bribes to be paid by individuals to NCS officials. Many also resort to smuggling and undervaluation of goods. This article addresses the problems of the Nigeria Customs Service and solutions to these problems.
Inept customs and immigration machinery
Many who have come in contact with Custom service officials can testify of their unprofessionalism and incompetence when handling matters. In order to address issues such as smuggling of goods, the government needs to strengthen the capacity of customs and immigration officers so they can better administer the country’s trade policies and laws.
Incompetence of NCS officials
In 2018, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo accused officials of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) of not coming to office on time for examination of cargoes. This is just another report of the ineptitude of NCS officials which has been a stumbling block to the ease of doing business. NCS officials have also been accused of continual interception of goods at the ports and the land borders. One can only wonder why officials of the Customs would be stopping containers for another round check just after the port gate. This also frustrates the National Single Window (NSW) project meant to hasten the cargo clearance process at the nation’s ports. The National Single Window is a platform set up for the purpose of integrating all agencies involved in the clearance of cargoes at the ports. The unprofessionalism and incompetence of NCS officials is one of the major issues with the Nigeria Customs Service.
In 2004, President Olusegun Obasanjo announced an import prohibition of 41 products which he believes could be produced in the country. Some of the products banned included: printed textiles, bottled water, toothpicks, leather shoes, furniture, plastics, etc.
The ban was poorly enforced by custom and government officials. Corruption which is a big problem in the country is also a serious problem in the country’s Customs Service. Most of the big-time smugglers are wealthy and highly connected people with influence in government. These ones can easily bribe their way through or avoid being prosecuted for smuggling.
Ignorance and Illiteracy
Another problem of the Nigeria Customs service is the illiteracy and ignorance of the Nigerian people who encourage smugglers and stifle the work of the service. Nigeria customs service officials have reported how some Nigerians escort smugglers into the country. Some are sympathetic towards them and even waylay, officials, when they have seized the goods of smugglers.
Solutions to the problems of Nigeria Custom Service
Automation of the clearing process
One of the solutions to the problem of bribes at the ports and borders is the automation of the clearing process of goods. When the clearing process is automated, it will be more customer-friendly with ease of operations and will facilitate more trades. It will also restore public confidence in the Nigerian customs service’s clearing procedures.
The government needs to review many of its policies such as:
ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme
Many abuse the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme and through this policy, smuggle in low standard goods. The government needs to make conscious efforts to block revenue leakages by visiting factories in member countries so as to ascertain the eligibility of products.
Bureaucracy of importation and exportation of goods
The complexity and bureaucracy that surrounds the importation and exportation of goods has nurtured illegal activities such as bribe payments
Proper Investigation into misconducts
The government should set up a Special Team to investigate cases of fraud (non-payment of appropriate duties) at the Port and Land borders.
Intensification of Anti-Smuggling Operations particularly at the Border Stations.
In order to make NCS officials more disciplined, penalties and sanctions should be put in place for erring officers. There should be punishment ranging from reduction in rank to outright dismissal for those caught collecting bribes or facilitating the smuggling of goods
The funding of the Nigeria Service is from 7% Cost of Collection. The administration of the Nigerian Customs Service has reported that this is not enough to cater to the needs of all of the service. Such needs include:
Provision of working tools
Payment of salaries and allowances of officials.
Training of officials
The service has reported that the inadequacy of funding has resulted in the Service’s request for intervention funds to meet her needs. It is also reported that Nigeria Custom Service officials are the least paid security agents in the country. This can contribute to the unprofessional conduct of most officials such as collection of bribes.
Officials in the Nigeria Customs Service need to be trained in modern techniques of customs administration and according to international standards. This is especially in the area of Information Technology.
The lack of cohesive policies to address problems such as the importation of substandard goods has also contributed to the problem. The government needs to put in conscious efforts in the implementation of these policies so as to address these problems.
This is another problem that allows for smuggling into the country. Many attribute this problem to the large expanse of land in Nigeria through which smugglers can travel. This problem can be solved through the approval of more custom posts, the introduction of modern technology, increase of budgetary allocation so as to purchase necessary equipment for the land and sea borders that will aid NCS officials in doing their job well.