Adeniyi’s Reforms on Trade Facilitation, Seamless Export Policies

As the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi clocks one year in office, we x-ray reforms introduced to increase revenue, facilitate trade and seamless export

Before now, clearance of cargoes from Customs control at the nation’s entry ports was cumbersome, and disconcerting to clearing agents. Efforts at achieving a 24-hour cargo clearance were unattainable. On the contrary, clearing process often took more than a week and were implicated with allegations of compromises prior cargo evacuation.

But since the appointment of Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, as the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, many reforms have been introduced and have fast tracked cargo clearance in a seamless and flawless manner.

Adeniyi introduced Time Release Study, TRS, a process that reduced the clearing time of cargoes from seaport, especially at the Tin-Can Island port, Lagos.

Other reforms include transition of the service from fast track 2.0 to the Authorized Economic Operators, AEO, concept. Additional measures that helped to eliminate inefficiencies in Nigeria’s trading environment and re-emphasize the pursuit of trade facilitation include the dissolution of ad-hoc enforcement teams that constituted multiple layers of checkpoints and hindered seamless trade facilitation.

Transition from CEMA to Customs Service Act of 2023

The current management led by Adeniyi transited from the repealed Customs and Excise Act of 2004 to the newly signed Nigeria Customs Service Act of 2023.

This new act which includes extensive sensitization and clear understanding of the newly introduced features in the NCS Act of 2023 to all stakeholders involved in the customs processes strengthens the modernization of NCS operations, compliance and enforcement, and promotes innovations.

Accordingly, participants will benefit from quick wins such as expedited Customs clearance processes, reduced inspections, priority treatment, and enhanced predictability in Customs clearance. This transition has advanced beyond the critical stage of stakeholder engagement and several beneficiaries are set to be involved in the pilot stage.

Introduction of Advanced Ruling System to Facilitate Legitimate Trade

The Advanced Ruling System represents a notable stride in aligning NCS’ operations with global best practices in line with the recommendations of the World Customs Organisation and the World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreement. This initiative is at an advanced stage of implementation.

In February 2024, NCS launched an extensive Time Release Study, TRS, intended to identify bottlenecks and resolve them in the clearance process. The launch was supported by the Minister of Finance; got the buy-in of the Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment; and the Minister of the Marine and Blue Economy. Subsequently, the TRS led to the commencement of a 24-hour clearance at theTin can Island port Lagos. This is an improvement on the Presidential Directive to enforce the 48-hour clearance of goods.

Dedicated Customs Command for Export in Lagos

For processing goods at dedicated terminals, the NCS command at the Port of Lilypond was designated to handle export transactions. This strategy resulted in significant gains because rather than handling 317 Single Goods Declarations in transactions, the terminal now manages 7,464 SGDs, accounting for 19.49% of the total 38,294 export transactions recorded in 2023.

Indeed, by the first quarter of 2024, the Service processed 10,786 transactions, with 3,162 or 29.32% of these through the dedicated export terminal.

Following a 90-day window approved by the President, through the Minister of Finance, for owners of uncustomed vehicles to pay appropriate duties on previously imported vehicles, the current NCS management implemented several revenue-enhancing measures.

This initiative fetched N2.79 billion from importers of smuggled vehicles. An additional N1.5 billion was recovered from the decongestion and disposal of 1,705 overtime containers and 981 vehicles from the port.

Customs’ 81.5% Increase in PEBEC Ranking

The NCS’ recent ranking under the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council which aims to streamline business operations in Nigeria through reforms and policies is noteworthy.

Ministries, Departments, and Agencies’, MDAs ranking is predicated on eight broad indicator levels, including efficiency reforms based on service delivery within stipulated timelines, transparency reforms, the review and update of Service Level Agreements, and support for manufacturing and agriculture export.

Between 2020 and 2022, the NCS maintained an average percentage score of 18.45%, ranking 28th out of the 37 MDAs ranked. By 2023, the NCS ranking fell further to 34th out of 39 MDAs, with a percentage score of 18.53%.

By 2024, the NCS moved up 33 places with a percentage score of 100%, marking an 81.5% increase, and now tied at the top with 4 other MDAs out of the 36 MDAs assessed. This improvement came from trade facilitation measures implemented within the past year.

Revenue Drive

Under Adeniyi, the NCS reported a remarkable 74% growth in revenue collection in one year.

The service collected N 4.49 trillion revenue between June 2023 and May 2024, compared to the N 2.58 trillion during the corresponding period the previous year. This achievement resulted from a sustained increase of 70.13% in average monthly revenue collection compared to the previous year. The NCS also recorded a daily All-Time-High of N58.5 billion in revenue collection on June 13, 2024.

Renewed Anti-smuggling Operation across the Country

Last year, the NCS’ seizures include illicit drugs, grains, fake and expired pharmaceuticals, arms, ammunition, used vehicles, foreign parboiled rice, and most importantly, recorded 724 seizures of 2.93 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS from smugglers, among others.

The seizures saved the country several billions of naira; protected the nation’s economy; safeguarded public health; and stabilized food inflation.

The NCS seized 63 animal and wildlife products valued at N566 million; made seven seizures of arms and ammunition through ports and borders; and in a combined total of 127 cases, seized illicit drugs, narcotics and pharmaceutical products valued at over N6 billion.

The Service recorded 1,744 cases of rice and grain seizures valued at N4.4 billion.

Stakeholders’ Collaboration

The NCS continues to collaborate with traditional and new stakeholders both nationally and internationally at various fora. The NCS revived Comptroller-General of Customs Conference was graced by the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Kashim Shettima in December, 2023. The event culminated in the Lagos Continental document.

The NCS established interagency cooperation with the Federal Road Safety Corps to minimize the registration of smuggled vehicles; led the reviving of the activities of the National Trade Facilitation Committee; engaged with the Health Federation of Nigeria to facilitate the clearance of medical goods, reduced challenges and costs and targeted the PPA on healthcare.

Experts React to Milestones at Customs

The paramount ruler of Yewa Land and Olu of Ilaro, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle commended the return of professionalism to the Nigeria Customs Service since the appointment of Adeniyi and urged the NCS to “remain focused and not allow non-professionals take over the profession.”

The President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, Emenike Nwokeoji also thanked President Bola Tinubu “for giving us a round peg in a round hole, a seasoned and well-trained officer to man the position of Comptroller-General of Customs” and commended the Customs’ boss for ensuring periodic engagement with various stakeholders as stipulated in the new Customs Act.

The President of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners, AMATO, Chief Remi Youngmi expressed satisfaction for the release of containerised trucks to haulers by the Customs after being trapped at the Federal Operations Unit of Customs across the country.

Chief Youngmi said “Mr. Bashir AdewaleAdeniyi’s sterling administration anchored on Renewed Hope Agenda of the Federal Government in the last year witnessed a tremendous increase in the Nigerian Customs Service revenue generation, rapid expansion in the frontiers of trade facilitation, friendly stakeholders’ engagement policy and ease of doing business in the Nigerian Maritime ecosystem.” He affirms that the principles of CG Bashir AdewaleAdeniyi are catalysts for rapid national economic growth and development.

Falling Forward

The NCS under Adeniyi has ensured greater commitment on working closely with relevant stakeholders to ensure that the implementation of trade agreements like the African Continental Free Trade Area yields the desired benefits to Nigerians.

Moreover, the Service has signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with strategic trade partners like China Customs. It has recently begun working with Benin Customs to facilitate the creation of a new joint border post along the Segbana-Tsamia border with the Republic of Benin at Kebbi Customs post.

CG Adeniyi recently said, “It has been a year of continuous work and dedicated efforts to ensure that we deliver on the mandate and trust that has been reposed in Customs.”

His mantra is subsumed in the logic that when Customs facilitates trade and reduces the costs and encumbrances facing importers, it translates to lower costs which would eventually reflect in price reductions for consumers.

“This is why the NCS focuses on plugging leakages and improving revenue collection to support the funding of the government’s objectives and initiatives to build and upgrade infrastructure and invest in other essential schemes, including social welfare,” said the CG has he tightens his belt for the second year in the saddle.

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Written by Nike

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