Nigeria Customs Service reads riot act to free zones over smuggling

Comptroller-General of Nigerian Custom Services Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) . PHOTO: LUCY LADIDI ELUKPO

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has raised concerns over the increasing smuggling activities allegedly taking place at some Free Trade Zones (FTZs) in the country.

The Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Hameed Ibrahim Ali, who disclosed this at an interactive session with manufacturers at the 2017 edition of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria’s (MAN), yearly general meeting in Lagos, said less than five per cent of importers process their documents genuinely.

He noted that one of the major challenges is non-compliance with procedures by importers.

He assured that the agency is committed to the Federal Government’s ease of doing business with efforts to ensure that goods imported into Nigeria are duly processed as most of the manufacturers are involved in importing raw materials to complete their production value chains.

Ali emphasized the need for caution among those engaged in activities at various Export Processing Zones in the country, saying that the zones have become routes for smugglers.

According to him, Free Trade Zones are special economic zones where goods may land, be handled, manufactured, and re-exported without the intervention of Customs. Within these zones, trade barriers and Customs duties, which prevail in the rest of the country, are minimal or non-functional.

He said some operators would go to the zone, establish something small, and then use that as a base for massive importation.

He accused them of taking advantage of the various incentives to import 98 per cent of what they were supposed to produce, while producing only two per cent in Nigeria.

“At a time, we saw over 300 truckloads of rice heading towards one of the FTZs, and I was wondering what value addition rice was supposed to offer to the operators in the zone.”

Admitting that it was a herculean task for his men to man the over 4,070 kilometres of borders that Nigeria shares with other nations, the Customs CGC called for synergy between manufacturers and the Service to identify smuggled goods especially rice, in stores.

“The Central Bank of Nigeria has not issued import licence for rice in the last one year, but we still see this rice in departmental stores all over the nation. But you as manufacturers know your products; if you can work with us to track the movement of these smuggled goods, it will make our work more effective,” he said.



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