Thursday, 1 June 2017

Senate amends Customs law, insists on insider as CG

Two months after a face-off between Senate and Comptroller-General of Nigerian Customs Service (NCS),      Hameed Ali, the upper legislative chamber, has passed a new law which compels the president to appoint an insider as the CG.
Also, with the new law, the CG’s appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.
Senate has also scrapped the NCS Governing Board and replaced it with a Commission, which will oversee the administration of the NCS.
The commission, when set up, will be headed by a chairman, who will be a retired career Comptroller-General or Deputy Comptroller-General.
He or she will be appointed by the president, for a period of four years.
The appointment of the chairman of the commission will also be subject to confirmation by the Senate and the tenure is only renewable once.
The Senate bill, tagged “A Bill for an Act to repeal the Customs and Excise Management Act, to establish the Nigeria Customs Service, reform the administration and management of Customs and Excise in Nigeria”, was passed, following adoption of a report by the Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff.
On the appointment of the CG, section 13 of the Bill makes it very clear that only a serving officer would be qualified to be so appointed.
“The president shall appoint from the Customs Service, subject to the confirmation of the Senate, a Comptroller General who shall be responsible for the over all management of the Customs Service.” The bill also said that the Customs CG shall execute policies and decisions of the commission.
Senate explained that the office of the CG is sufficiently sensitive to warrant scrutiny by the Senate and, therefore, ensure that best possible candidate occupies that position.
The commission would be responsible for managing policies of the NCS, or matters pertaining to administration, assessment, collection and accounting for revenues, as may be directed by the Minister of Finance from time to time.
It would also be responsible for managing all issues relating to employment, training, welfare, and discipline of officers of the NCS, with the approval of the appropriate authority of the Federal Government.  The bill consolidates into a single reference document, the NCS legal authority which is scattered in multiple enactment, and to bring the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) 1958, in line with modern day reality and international best practices.
Committee Chairman Senator Hope Uzodinma, explained that the Service would also be financed from a seven percent cost of collection of import duty, excise and fees, special levies, revenues derived from assessment and collection of cost based user fees, and from budgetary provisions.
He said: “The new bill will substantially enhance revenue generation and facilitate trade through full implementation of modern customs procedures that will evolve consistent, transparent and predictable environment for international trade in line with internally accepted norms and practices.
Uzodinma added that the bill would also ensure pre-shipment and post shipment inspection at point of origin, and destination, to reduce the incidence of import of dangerous items.
“It strengthens the full implementation of pre-shipment laws of the country through the provisions for screening as a prerequisite for clearing goods into the country not only adds to the expedited clearing system, but empirically improves the security of the nation by minimising the unfettered access into the country of illicit goods, prohibited narcotics, proliferation of small arms and toxic cargoes,” he added.

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