Customs N11bn daily means dying manufacturing not due to border closure—Amiwero
President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero has raised an issue of urgent national importance bordering the recent claims made by the leadership of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).
Recall that last week, the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) announced that since the land border closure, his agency has been raking in not less than N11bn daily from import duties at the ports.
However, in a telephone interview, Amiwero brushed aside the given reason of border closure and linked the apparent high revenue to harsh operating environment for manufacturers which is causing drop in productivity of manufacturers’.
Giving further insights, Amiwero, seen by industry stakeholders’ as the encyclopaedia of Nigerian maritime business said “If the Customs bogus claims of making N11bn everyday is anything to take home, it means that Nigeria has turned to an import economy.”
While querying the credibility of the statistics, he averred that “If it is a reality, it means that the Nigerian economy has lost manufacturing grip and that can be interpreted as red flag in its entirety.”
“Revenue collection is not the best for the economy. Revenue is not what a country that is growing is supposed to be talking about. I think Nigerian customs should change their perspective about revenue collection to see how the economy can be developed via trade facilitation which remains their core statutory function.
“It has become clear since the regime of Ali that trade facilitation is no more in the annals of Nigerian customs.
“Let me explain to you, a customs job is to implement policies and government should not be giving them revenue because when you look at our policy in the import trade, it is revenue driven.
“No country in the world drives collection or revenue driven. Every country is trying to see how they can keep up investment and manufacturing. Smart economies are talking about being investment driven not revenue driven because it is investments that drive employment and create wealth.
“I say this because when you are driving revenue and most of the companies are moving out of the country while others are closing down, what revenue are you making?
“So when there is no work and you are making revenue, it does not make any sense, the unemployment is growing and you are telling us that you are collecting trillion of naira. That is not actually the truth.
“There is no road, and there is no water. There is nothing to show for it, so the revenue has no effect for the common man, it has nothing to do for the common man and the employment creating sector.
“There is no country that depend on revenue, what countries are looking at is economic investment that boost growth and builds capacity for employment generation. So all these things have nothing to do with the common man and manufacturers.
Giving figures of revenue generation by a government agency does not translate to growth in the economy. In fact such statistics are not modern, they are out-dated, and there is no country that talks about revenue.
“Go to the internet and check for the country that talks about revenue generation in customs. None.
If you check what they are talking about, they are talking about security, how do you keep the country secure, how do you create employment. When Ghana is reducing VAT, you are increasing VAT.
“When Ghana is trying to see how they would build up their economy, we are trying to see how we can destroy our economy with high tax regimes.
According to the maritime expert, “We have to rethink the economy by bringing in expert to come in and look at all these things. As far as growth is concerned, Nigeria Customs is still in the Stone Age because it is still running a 1949 system of running custom administration.
So it is not all about revenue thing; you must be able to look at what custom is.
“Custom is import-export management and the agency must begin to look at how to manage the economic environment for trade, for import, export and manufacturing. That is what it should do, not the revenue targets and monthly announcements by every command as if it is a national command competition.
Continuing, Amiwero noted that “They should ask themselves, how many companies have left the country; it is not the same revenue involved, where is the reflection of the revenue. How much are they making from excise duties or is everything about Customs revenue starts and ends in import duties?
“The facts are clear that nobody or country is talking about revenue. There are looking at how they can grow their economy through the real sector which is all about boosting manufacturing and facilitating entrepreneurships’ from where reasonable taxes can be collected. That’s all,” NCMDLCA boss averred.