Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) efforts to outdo revenue targets set by the Federal Government is killing Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and restricting Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) from the country.
A trade policy expert and veteran freight agent, Mr. Lucky Amiwero made this assertion during an exclusive chat with MaritimeTV recently.
He posited that Customs has created a hostile fiscal environment which kills SMEs and scares off FDIs as the Service aims to meet the revenue target set by the government.
According to Amiwero, it is an anomaly for the government to set revenue target for the agency which should be primarily concerned with trade facilitation and security.
His words: “We should also blame the government for giving Customs revenue targets because it encourages them to misapply their principles and priorities. Customs should make the port environment trader-friendly but we have a situation where they issue Debit Notes and over-invoice in the bid to meet their revenue targets.”
“The emphasis on Customs revenue also kills the Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) because the valuation processes are wrong. You would never hear anywhere in the world that Customs generated revenue. The issue around the world for Customs are; how safe is the nation’s corridor? What can you do to bring about safety that would guarantee trade and investment?”
He also lamented that Nigeria has lost cargoes, freight components and myriad of employment opportunities to neighbouring countries with efficient port systems such as Togo, Ghana and Benin Republic.
“Where is the ease of doing business in Nigeria? Go to Ghana and see how indigenous businesses thrive. Also study the port system over there. The hub ports in the sub-region are in Togo, Benin Republic and Cote D’voire. We bring in one ship of 10,000 TEUs and we are celebrating it in Nigeria when vessels of 20,000 TEUs and more are moving all over the world including ports in the West African sub-region.”
“Nigeria has lost the transit trade to Niger, Chad and Burkinafaso. These countries have turned to Ghana as the Ghanaian ports have dedicated berths transit cargoes. 500 trailers move from this area everyday without any escort.”
Noting that most of the bill of lading in Nigeria indicate that the cargoes are in transit because the vessels are heading to Cote D’voire or Benin Republic, he stressed that the two transshipment areas in the sub-region aren’t in Nigeria there are no deep seaports to receive large vessels.
“The high tide level of Nigerian ports is 13meters whereas Ghana is getting to 19meters. They are prepared to host these gigantic vessels while Nigeria continues to play politics. The freight component of trade is going to other countries and this is a sector that could create huge employment opportunities,” he posited.
According to him, there is no trade facilitation at Nigerian port because there is no transparency, consistency and predictability.
“You can’t tell how much it would cost to transport a container to the port or how much is would cost to clear the consignment from the port. So, how do you measure the ease of doing business. In other parts of the world, including Ghana; you know how much it would cost to go into the port to clear a container. Ghana has attained predictability and transparency because you know the cost and they are working assiduously to attain a Single Window,” he added.