Ongoing controversy over the perceived shortfall in fiscal policy direction in the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has been attributed to lack of properly constituted Board to direct strategy implementation as contained in the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA Act C 45 of 2004).
The National Council of Management Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) has petitioned the Presidency on the need for the Minister of Finance to constitute the Customs Board almost two years after the Comptroller General, Hameed Ali, assumed office.
The agents are worried over the lacuna, as the non-existence of the Board of Directors automatically makes Ali a sole administrator of Customs, which is at variance with the provisions of CEMA.
The petition reads in part: “There is the urgent need to give the service direction through the legally constituted Board under the Chairmanship of the Minister of Finance in line with provision of the Nigeria Customs Service Board Act, and the Customs and Excise Management Act C45 of 2004 by compliance with the provision as contained in the Nigeria Customs service Board Act.
“As member and sub-committee chairman on the draft report of Presidential Task Force on the Reform of Nigeria Customs Service, we are indeed disturbed with the controversy that has been generated by recent policy, which is a complete set back to the economy.”
The Nigeria Customs Board is a statutory Board, which confers on the Minister of Finance the power to constitute the Board as contained in Section 2-(2), and to appoint persons after consultation with various ministries and organisations.
The petition signed by the National President, NCMDLCA, Lucky Amiwero, also cited other sections of CEMA to underscore its points. For instance, it noted that “The provision as contained in the Nigeria Customs Service Board Act, requires the Board to administer the Customs and Excise Management Act, rectify any appointment, promotion, dismissal, disciplinary control of staff, and policy directive released by the Minister of Finance as Chairman of the Board and the regulatory power on import, Export and Excise under the Customs and Excise Management Act.”
With reference to CEMA, the agents said the Board should be responsible for; formulating the general policy guidelines for the Customs; administering the CEMA and, accordingly subject to the general control of the minister, control and manage the administration of the customs and excise laws and; collect revenue of Customs and Excise and account for them in such manner as the minister shall, from time to time direct.
“The collection of revenue of Customs and Excise is directly under the ministries of finance and he direct from time to time, directive as to revenue collection matters, which is the sole responsibility of the minister of finance as contained in the act,” it stated.