From left: National President of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents ANLCA, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike and National Financial Secretary of the association, Mrs. Bola Muse shortly after his installation as Patron, Association of Maritime Journalists of Nigeria AMJON, Wednesday in Lagos.

The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents ANLCA has warned that the current differential tariff structure on imported goods operated by the Nigeria Customs Service does not make for the effective implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), as it may erode its benefit to Nigeria’s economy.

National President of the association, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike, gave the warning in Lagos, Wednesday while presenting a paper entitled: “The Role of Customs Brokers in the implementation of the AfCFTA: ANLCA Perspective” at a one-day workshop organised by the Association of Maritime Journalists of Nigeria AMJON in Lagos.

 Nwabunike, who was also installed as the patron of the association, observed that there has been a gradual but steady distrust between Customs officers and Customs brokers over cargo value differences, noted that the development is even more worrisome given that there seems no end in sight to this.

But going forward, he believes that the Federal Government should provide a value benchmark as a means to standardised tariff charges, which may also end the misunderstanding, arguing that this mutual suspicion had been happening because government has encouraged it.

He said that Nigeria is the only country where the Customs is being given annual revenue targets, arguing that the responsibility of the service on import and other port levies are supposed to be administrative cost to cushion maintenance, logistics support and infrastructure provisions.

According to him, in order to optimally take advantage of the new trade deal considering her market size and prominent and strategic potential in the continent, Nigeria should as a matter of urgency position herself for the stiff competition that will come with the AfCFTA.

This, he said will partly include reviewing the country’s trade policies and procedures with a view to making them trade-friendly and being in tandem with global best practices.

 “We need to look into our import and export trade procedures. Nigeria also needs to urgently review her import guideline and trade facilitation mechanisms as they currently affect not only Nigerians but the entire trading community in the country.

“The country also needs to address the current infrastructural deficit ranging from electricity supply, road networks to the provision of multi-modal transport systems and incentives to local manufacturers and farmers as well as the multiplicity of government taxes and charges”, he said emphatically.

Nwabunike, who doubles as the Managing Director/CEO MAC-Tonnel Nigeria Limited and a Director with the Inland Container Nigeria Limited ICNL located in Kaduna, however observed that it is now imperative for importers and exporters operating in the country to adopt an attitudinal change, which he argued had become paramount under the emerging trade regime.

This, according to him is more importantly so bearing in mind that everything borders on implementation and strict adherence to trade rules and regulations.

He also argued that the Freight Forwarders and Customs Brokers, being strategic stakeholders in the country’s supply chain should have the same level of training on tariff and trade procedures, adding that hard decisions should be taken against defaulters of the agreement.

“Readily Nigeria by virtue of her population and robust economy will be an attractive market for all kinds of goods and services under AfCFTA, but care should be taken to avoid making the country a dumping ground by other sister countries.

“Local manufacturers as well as farmers should therefore be encouraged to export their goods and services by providing them with the enabling environment. Customs should be encouraged to continue to safeguard Nigerian territorial boundaries and promote trade facilitations, security of goods in bound and out bound of the country.

“Giving customs a target every year by the Federal Government of Nigeria should be discouraged, I strongly believe that the Nigeria Customs Service has been over stretched, which makes Nigerians see them as unfriendly, a situation I sincerely believe should be revisited and the service allowed to remain what it is supposed to be according to the standards of the World Customs Organisation WCO”, he also said..

The ANLCA –boss insisted that the Ease of Doing Business policy initiated by the Federal Government must be strictly adhered to by all stakeholders while all bottlenecks in clearing of goods and services must be streamlined for a borderless trade under the AfCFTA.