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WE WON'T WITCH-HUNT ANYBODY, SAYS TASK FORCE ON CUSTOMS

By NBF News
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Against the backdrop of allegations of non-performance levelled against the Hallilu Bello-led Task Force on Customs Reforms, the Chairman of the reconstituted Presidential Task Force on the Reforms of the Nigeria Customs Service (PTFRC), Dr Ochi Achinivu has said he would not witch-hunt anybody in the service.

Achinivu who said this in Abuja during the weekend, also stated that he was going to focus on dismantling structures currently negating efficiency, professionalism and best practices in customs operations in the country.

According to him, the task force has a clear mandate to reposition the service for an enhanced operational efficiency and effectiveness through the reform and modernization of customs policies, processes and procedures capable of achieving trade facilitation.

'Our mandate is very clear. We are not re-inventing the wheel. We are not doing anything that is totally new. The answers and solutions to problems in the customs are quite obvious and had always been there. In our own case, we have adopted an approach that aims at synthesizing existing suggestions, recommendations and solutions which had never been implemented. This is where concrete action had been lacking.

Now, we have an opportunity provided by Federal Government's political will to implement those recommendations. We will not deviate,' the chairman said, adding that the implementation process will be carried out in stages starting from the short and medium term before advancing to the long term in a strategic and tactical manner in order not to lose sight of minute details.

He also noted that the body will work towards the enhancement of revenue collected by the service but it will also harp on the need for the service to move from revenue to trade facilitation as a way of impacting significantly on the nation's general economic activities.

'We are committed to elevating the Nigeria Customs Service to a higher level in all spheres of its mandate particularly in the facilitation of trade in the country. It is envisaged that the service should play a critical role in the economy of the country as it is in other countries. It should therefore be the nucleus of our trade relations. We believe that more can be achieved by the service outside revenue collection. It has the potential to increase our trade relations with other countries', he said.

The chairman, however, assured that the training and re-training of officers and men of the service is irrevocable, describing it as the only way the service can be truly modernized into a world class organization where international best practices hold sway. 'We will look at the operations of Customs Services worldwide in developed and developing economies.

We intend to consult with the World Customs Organization (WCO) so that we can adopt best practices in the management and operations of the Nigeria Customs Service,'he said. The chairman also admitted that the taskforce has already begun work after it was inaugurated a few weeks ago. He expressed confidence in the ability of his team to deliver.

'This time around, the Federal Government has indicated and demonstrated a political will to reform and transform the customs into a modern, effective and efficient organization that is capable of pushing Nigeria into the league of one of the best economies by 2020. The service is central to the management of the economy. It is also central to the security of the nation because as border-guards, it has the duty of putting its eyes on everything coming into the country. To enable the service efficiently perform these duties is the core mission of this presidential committee. We will surely get there', he said.

Other members of the Presidential Task Force include two former Assistant Comptrollers-General of Customs, Sani Nuhu Abubakar and Ambrose Okolo; former President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Bashir Borodo, chairman of Clearing and Forwarding Agents Association, Mr. Lucky Amiwero, Mr. Olujimi Morgan, Mr. Abayomi Olusegun Ogunsola, Mr. Olalekan Odugbemi, Ms. Funke Agbor, Mr. Fatai Adewale Hassan and Baba Gidado Mohammed of the Federal Ministry of Finance who serves as Member/Secretary.