TERRORISM: JONATHAN ASKS CUSTOMS TO LOOK BEYOND REVENUE COLLECTION
By IFEYINWA OBI
PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan has said that the crusade against terrorism would be won hands down if Customs agencies across the world see their functions beyond trade regulation and promotion as well as revenue collection.
Jonathan stated this at the 119th/120th sessions of the Customs Co-operation Council/World Customs Organisation (WCO) in Brussels, Belgium.
The President told the gathering that the best approach to tackling rising national and regional security issues relating to the menace of terrorism, proliferation of light weapons, narcotics and smuggling is the enforcement of critical co-operation between Customs administrations worldwide.
On his transformation agenda, Jonathan told the gathering of Customs chiefs from 177 countries that Nigeria had made significant improvement in port reforms, policy rejig and would 'continue to review Customs procedures to reduce the cost of doing business, reduce total transaction cost, ensure minimal physical contact and presumptive discretion, through the introduction of 'single window concept'.'
He further explained that the number of agencies at the port had been reduced and a 'one-stop-check' procedure introduced alongside the establishment of inland container ports and strengthening sister agencies such as the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to make the sea ports more efficient.
Jonathan said his administration had commenced the review of Customs and Excise Management Act, along with other Customs and Excise notices, decrees and guidelines, and was committed to the Doha Round negotiations on Trade Facilitation, among other international agreements on trade.
He added that the government was also committed to the enhancement of Nigeria's rail, road, inland waterways, sea and airports, to complement the ongoing reform and modernisation of the Nigeria Customs Service.
Jonathan tasked Customs administrations worldwide to ensure that their roles go beyond guarding against illegal activities to protecting the integrity of global socio-economic systems.
He lauded WCO for developing tools to enhance collaboration among its members, even as he acknowledged the challenges of outdated procedures, inadequate legislation, limited Information and Communication Technology (ICT) application, institutional and human resource capacity facing Customs administrations in developing countries.
The President said Customs administrations remain critical in the ability of governments to maximise benefits from reforms, including enhancing and deepening trade integration between members of trading blocks.
Jonathan stated that there 'are direct linkages between trade policy reform and Customs administration, especially with respect to the role of Customs in trade policy formulation, the impact of trade policy changes in Customs administration,' and challenged the operators to constantly review their policies, strategise and adapt to new thrusts in public policies.
The Nigerian leader urged Customs to see themselves in 'the twin roles of trade facilitators and guardian of the community. As trade facilitators, they should be committed to building strategic relationships with the business sector, including helping to maintain the competitive edge of the local industry.'
President Jonathan said greater efficiency, enhanced competitiveness and higher productivity in the new global environment would be better achieved if Customs service is responsive to the needs of industry in the areas of simplification of procedures, efficient processing of shipments and transparent use of rules and regulations.
The WCO Secretary-General, Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, expressed the Council's appreciation for the support, which Jonathan had given to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the international body.