By Godfrey Bivbere
THE Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, and the Senate Committee on Customs and Excise have canvassed for reopening of Nigeria’s land borders especially with the expected commencement of the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA, next year.
The two groups had held dialogue over continued closure of the nation’s borders and the involvement of the committee in cargo clearing process at the ports.
ANLCA, in a statement made available to Vanguard Maritime Report noted that it has received government assurances for consideration to rescind the border closure.
The statement signed by its National President, Tony Iju Nwabunike, noted that the group reminded the government that Nigeria will be shut out of the trade with proximate countries of Benin Republic, Cameroun, Chad and Niger Republic in West and Central African countries under the AfCFTA regime.
Nwabunike pointed out that they also identified the strategic trade impact of Nigeria to the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS and Economic Community of Central African States, ECCAS where it is bordered by Niger, Cameroun, and Chad.
“The association, therefore, secured the assurances of the Federal Government on the need to effect gradual reopening of the closed borders with a particular focus on rules of origin to prevent abuses of incentives like the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS).
“This, in our view will help in discouraging smuggling activities through all approved routes.
“We posit that for Nigeria Customs Service to be in tune with international best practices it should allow Micro Chip shoot on every container along the ECOWAS route into the country.
“It was observed as an issue of utmost concern that cargoes on transit and mobile assets like trucks laden with goods worth over N130b belonging to private businesspeople were trapped since August 18, 2019 when the borders were shut under a joint operation, codenamed “Exercise Swift Response”.”
After a closed-door meeting between ANLCA and members of the Senate Committee on Customs and Excise, it was mutually agreed that it negates due process for lawmakers to be involved in cargo clearing.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Francis Alimikhena, gave his words that all cargo clearance hitherto stalled with shipping companies due to the committee’s activities and correspondence will be allowed to be processed in line with extant regulations.
Senator Alimikhena agreed with ANLCA that: ‘‘whereas the oversight functions of the lawmakers cannot be wished away on the executive arm of government and any of its agents, the day to day operation of duty collection, cargo examination, issuance of demand notices (when necessary) and effecting seizures for due infractions rest with Nigeria Customs Service.’’
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