The claims by the Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali, last week that less than 5 per cent of importers comply with laws guiding importation of goods into the country have been sustained by stakeholders.
However, they agreed that the reduction in compliance is made possible by the robust tripartite connivance between importers, clearing agents and Customs officers working at the ports.
Ali had an interactive event of the 45th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Manufacturers Association (MAN) in Lagos, lamented that agency’s efforts to comply with the Federal Government’s 48 hours clearance of goods at the port is being hampered by false declaration by importers.
He explained that “though we have taken steps to digitalise the fast track process at the port, most items brought in are never what they declared on the manifest”.
“Our biggest problem is compliance. If only our traders can comply with the law, then things would be easier. Those giving us problem are within 5 per cent; if the importers are sincere, clearance should not take more than 30 minutes. We believe that if there is trust, then most of the problems will be lessened by 90 per cent,” Ali decried.
The CG argued that apart from MAN members who import raw materials and have been known by Customs over the years, 99 per cent of traders who brought in goods were not sincere with their declaration, thereby putting Customs through much stress.
He was however, silent on the trending allegation that most of the cases of false declarations are powered by involvements of Customs officers.
For example, during the media presentation of latest seizure of about 1,100 Pump Action rifles at Tincan Island Port, the CG revealed the senior Customs involved in the illicit attempted clearance of the container and his accomplices were arrested.
He further agreed that there is case of false declaration without the involvement of his men even though his administration had been fighting hard to educate Customs officers on the dangers of such criminality to the economy and the Service.
Continuing, Ali disclosed that the Service has reached over 70 per cent in working on the single window, which they have been agitating for, saying now, “it’s under the office of the Vice President and it would be achieved before the end of the year”.