ABUJA | Senate passes bill to reform Customs Service

The Senate has passed a bill that would make it mandatory for the President to seek confirmation of the appointment of the Comptroller General for the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).

The bill also makes it mandatory for the President to appoint the Comptroller General (CG) from within the organisation.  The CG Col. Hammed Ali was appointed from outside the service.

The bill, if it sails through to become law, will repeal the Customs and Excise Management Act, Cap. C45, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

The bill also scraps the Customs Governing Board, replacing it with the Customs Service Commission.

The senators argue that “The office of the Comptroller General of Customs is sufficiently sensitive to warrant scrutiny by the Senate and thus ensure that the best possible candidates occupy that position”.

Senators also inserted a clause that makes it mandatory for the federal character law to reflect in the appointment of Deputy Comptrollers General, Assistant Comptrollers General.

A provision in Clause 13 Subsection (2) makes it mandatory for the Customs Service Commission to determine the numbers and duties of Deputy Comptroller General and Assistant Comptroller General.

The Commssion is to be headed by a chairman, who would be a retired career Comptroller General or Deputy Comptroller General, who would be appointed by the President an initial tenure of four years.

The appointment of the chairman of the commission is also subject to confirmation by the Senate, and the tenure is renewable once.

The bill, entitled: “A Bill for an Act to Repeal the Customs and Excise Management Act, to Establish the Nigeria Customs Service, Reform the Administration and Management of Customs and Excise in Nigeria, was passed following the adoption of the report of its Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff.

Section 13 of the Bill made it clear that only a serving officer in the Customs Service should be qualified to be appointed CG

The section states in part: “The President shall appoint from the Customs Service, subject to the confirmation of the Senate, a Comptroller General who shall be responsible for the over all management of the Customs Service.

According to the bill, the Commission would be responsible for managing policies of the Customs Service or matters pertaining to administration, assessment, collection and accounting for revenues, as may be directed by the Minister of Finance from time to time.

It will also be responsible for managing all issues relating to employment, training, welfare, and discipline of officers of the Customs, with the approval of the appropriate authority of the Federal Government.

The bill consolidated into a single reference document, the Customs Service legal authority, which is embodied in multiple enactments, with the view to bringing the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) 1958, in line with modern day reality and international best practices.

Chairman of the Senate Customs committee, Senator Hope Uzodinma explained that the service would also be financed from a seven per cent cost of collection of import duty, excise and fees, special levies, revenues derived from assessment and collection of cost based user fees, and from budgetary provisions.

Uzodinma said: “The bill will substantially enhance revenue generation and facilitate trade through full implementation of modern customs procedures that will evolve consistent, transparent and predictable environment for international trade in line with internally accepted norms and practices”.

The senator added that the bill would also ensure pre-shipment and post shipment inspection at point of origin and destination, to reduce the incidence of illegal importation of weapons and other lethal items.

“It strengthens the full implementation of pre-shipment laws of the country through the provisions for screening as a prerequisite for clearing goods into the country, not only adds to the expedited clearing system, but empirically improves the security of the nation by minimising the unfettered access into the country of illicit goods, prohibited narcotics, proliferation of small arms and toxic cargoes”, Senator Uzodinma added.

The bill also made provisions for the use of modern Information Technology (IT) platforms and systems, including electronic documents, signatures and electronic payments, as well as application of Risk Management and other IT related issues.

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