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Okonjo Iweala Seeks Customs Bill Amendment

By on November 6, 2012

Finance Minister, Okonjo Iweala

On Monday the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala faulted the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA), CAP 45 2004, (Amendment) Bill 2012 presently undergoing public hearing at the National Assembly and called for amendment of the affected parts.


She faulted the Section 145 of the bill, saying the Comptroller General of Customs (CGC) cannot take over the President and Minister’s power over import and export prohibition.


She stressed the importance of the bill, and argued that the amendment was not skewed to the overall development of the country.


“We think that it will need significant amendments of section 145, for it to align properly to the country’s overall economic development. We believe that the bill should separate the policy making powers from the executive powers so that they can be properly aligned,” she said.


She said the customs service cannot function independently of the policy thrust and economic agenda or goals of the Federal Government, that is why it has always and traditionally been under the under the supervision of Ministry of Finance.


“It must be appreciated that Customs is principally a revenue collection agency. It is expected that the Minister of Finance should align with the administration of Customs with the economic goals of government,” she added.



She said, “In our view, Prohibition, importation and exportation of goods, duty exemptions and waivers are powers too critical to economic management to be left to the Customs service, which is in real terms an agent not the principal.”


“Section 7(3) of the bill provides that the Minister shall appoint the persons referred to in subsection 2G, after consultations with trading organisations involved and other members of the governing body.”


The minster, on the other hand, opposed that the country cannot take no notice of certain international rules as waivers are repeatedly granted to Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and foreign embassies.


She said, “We all agreed on one thing that abuse of waiver for whatever purpose is not something good for the country. “ At the same time, there are certain categories that are internationally respected like the waivers for diplomatic communities and NGOs and recently waivers have reformed and if they were to be granted it should be on industry basis.”


Earlier, the Senate President, Senator David Mark, represented by the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, declaring the session open, said the Amendment process had passed second reading in Senate.


In his remarks, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, asked the Minister to present her case to the Senate, as the upper chamber was yet to decide on the issue.


He said, “We do believe that you have key observations that will need to look into with the view to achieving the overall objectives to serving a good balance legislation that is good for Nigeria. Even the National Assembly has problem with what you have said particularly with the power of the President or the Minister that should not be exercised by any individual except by power of legislation or resolution.


“We have this fundamental issue that is also of concern to the NASS. So when you make your representation we will continue engaging each other until we arrive what we believe is the best for Nigeria not about any individual in this country.”


In the interim, Senator Isah Galaudu, representing Kebbi North, cautioned that Nigeria lost about N58.7 billion last year alone through granting of waivers and concession.


“We are worried about duty waivers because we want to collect as much revenue as possible and we want to make sure that government captures it and collect it This year alone the country the lost about N58.7 billion on account of waivers and concession in a situation where every naira counts to finance our developmental operations I think we have to rethink on how waivers are to given. There is a lot of concern that these waivers are being abused,” He added.