*Advises customs to adopt penalty instead of outright seizures on minor breaches
By Blessing Ifeoma
Nigerian importers, exporters and freight forwarding practitioners have been warned against the risk of engaging in smuggling activities.
Founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam who had in the past advised against smuggling repeated it in a press statement weekend apparently because of the various goods worth hundreds of millions of Naira that have been seized from smugglers by the Nigeria Customs Service recently.
Aniebonam said that importers and freight forwarders intending to engage in any smuggling activities should have a change of mind because according to him, the Commands of the Federal Operations Unit Ikeja, Owerri, Apapa, Seme, Katsina and TICP
“have stepped up anti smuggling operations with a view to interdicting all acts in breach of the extant laws of the service in relation to Nigeria’s international trade and Customs question”.
Aniebonam said in the statement, “In a telephone conversation between the Comptrollers of Apapa and Federal Operations Unit Ikeja and the Founder of NAGAFF Dr. Boniface O. Aniebonam the duo of the government operatives insisted that their Commands can
effectively facilitate legitimate trade within the port and trade corridors of Nigeria respectively. It is also noted from emerging reports and feedbacks received from freight practitioners that the Commands of TCIP, Owerri, Katsina and Onne ports are in the same page with other
formations of the Service in tackling matters of untrue declarations for Customs purposes. In this regard it shall be our operational directive to practitioners to ensure full compliance to import and export guidelines and regulations of the Government to safe guard the investments of their
principals from avoidable seizures of trade goods and prosecution of offenders. .
“The idea and concept of non disclosure of the actual content of laden
containers at the traders zone of ASYCUDA 3.0 version for customs purposes
has to stop or risk the importers or exporters investment trusted in your
hand and prosecution thereto”
Aniebonam however advised the Customs management to adopt to option of penalty by way of additional duty payment on trade goods with minor breaches of extant laws and regulations instead of outright seizures.
He added, “It is also very important to remind the service operatives over the mandate of the CGC by Mr. President on matters of enhanced revenue functions of the service. While congratulating the Customs Area Comptrollers and its officers and men in their efforts to stem the tide of avoidable breaches of Customs laws the need to exercise restraints in seizing trade goods cannot be overemphasized.
“We therefore wish to canvass that if the FOUs and the CGC Compliance Team
have to exit the trade corridors within Nigerian high ways and city roads, it shall be the duty of freight agents and their principals to be compliant to extant rules. To achieve this, the need for education and enlightenment of the traders by the freight agents is necessary. The
power and authority of the Customs to enter premises, stop and search persons, vehicles, ships, aircraft, and to patrol freely within the territorial boundaries of Nigeria is not in doubt inline with the provisions of the Customs and Excise Management Cap C45 2004 as amended.
The CGC is equally being encouraged to mitigate and cause an action to ensure proper Customs examination of laden containers at the ports and border locations which is the bedrock of destination regime of the Service. The concept of seizure of trade goods over minor trade offences of alleged false declaration and wrong description of imports are overtaken when laden containers have been voluntarily positioned for Customs purposes. If we all, as critical stakeholders, can for good reasons become patriotic and build up integrity in our actions and
conducts, we can make our country great again”.