The Comptroller-General of Customs, Retired Col. Hameed Ali, on Friday urged the Federal Government to review the foreign exchange policy which had affected imports and revenue collection.
Ali made the plea in an interview in Lagos as maritime activities closed for the week.
He said that Nigeria was an import-independent economy, adding that this year could be a tough year due to delay in reviewing the forex policy.
Ali said that the service was working hard in making sure that it generated more revenue on excise to complement imports.
``The volume of trade is low. So, there is need for volume of trade to go higher for us to generate more revenue,’’ Ali said.
In the week under review, the Customs service said it would examine laws concerning the discharge of oil and gas related cargoes in some terminals in the country.
Ali stated this against the backdrop of controversies surrounding the discharge of oil and gas related-cargoes at designated terminals.
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had last year, issued a directive that all oil and gas related cargoes must be handled only at the designated terminals in Onne, Warri and Calabar ports.
Ali, who went on a tour of facilities of Snake Island Integrated Free Zone (SIIFZ) and Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base (LADOL), said the Customs management was now more knowledgeable about the zone’s activities.
He said, ``I have listened to your presentations. I would like to assure you that President’s Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is one of fairness, equity and transparency.’’
The Customs chief said that said that in the past certain things were done in accordance with the laws.
He noted that the administration believed in doing business in accordance with the law.
``We as the Customs Service have no choice but to toe that line. We have to walk the path of equity and justice.
``We will look at the laws that exist. If we find anything contradictory to the laws, we will address it but if it is in accordance with the law, we are also in a position to let you know,’’ Ali added.
The comptroller-general said that the service would cooperate with oil and gas related companies to improve its operations.
The Zonal Coordinator in charge of Zone "A". Assistant Comptroller- General of Customs, Ekporwei Edike, said he had visited all the commands under the zone and ensured that officers were diligent and efficient in their duties.
Edike, however, urged active officers to manage the inactive officers to enable them to be active.
He said that officers should exploit all avenues to generate more revenue, adding that officers should be cognisance of the nation’s security.
The Chairman of the SIIFZ, Mr Anwar Jarmakani, said that Nigeria was losing billions of naira due to a monopoly which allowed for the discharge of oil and gas related cargoes only at designated terminals in the country.
The SIIFZ is also the location of NigerDock, a ship repair, fabrication, supply and logistics facility offering maritime, logistics and oil and gas services.
``SIIFZ has created more than 6000 direct jobs, supports over 100,000 families through indirect jobs and has delivered over 27000 training programmes.
``Free Zones increase and expand our industrial base and improve investments in the country. We are need positive change in line with the Federal Government’s vision,’’ Jarmakani said.
He called for the discharge of all oil and gas cargoes at their ports of preference.
Also, during the week, the comptroller-general flagged off the training of 60 enforcement officers of the Kirikiri Lighter Terminal for proper administration of the enforcement unit.
Ali flagged off the enforcement course at the Customs Training School, Ikeja, Lagos.
He said that the essence of the course was to train officers in such a way that they would have the capacity to establish proper enforcement unit at the Kirikiri Lighter Terminal Command.
``This training is in line with the present administration of Customs on capacity building to enhance productivity and efficiency of officers and men of the command.
``I am appealing to you all to take the course very serious because they are the first set to undergo such training of all the various commands,’’ the comptroller-general said.
Ali said that such enforcement course would be used as one of the necessary conditions of promotion and career development.
The Customs chief, however, urged the officers undergoing training to exhibit the qualities they had gained while on the training.
The Customs Area Comptroller, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, Mr Benjamin Aber, said that the trained officers would also embark on military training on weapon handling and maintenance.
`This is just the beginning. Customs is using this set of officers to establish a proper enforcement station to remodel Kirikiri Command to be one of the best enforcement commands in Zone A,’’ Aber said.
He, however, noted that the selected officers should consider themselves fortunate, adding that they were trained to assist other commands.
In a related development, the comptroller-general described the activities of smugglers in the Oke Ogun area of Oyo State as ``daring and sophisticated’’.
The NCS chief, who was on a two-day working tour of Oyo/Osun Area Command of the Service, visited the border formations at Saki.
Ali, however, called for increased synergy between operatives of NCS and other security agencies.
He said that plans were underway to ensure that the agency was effectively equipped to carry out its primary functions of curbing smuggling, and generating revenue.
Ali urged officials to be more pro-active in intelligence gathering by monitoring what was happening around them and nipping this in the bud.
He also renewed his call for the establishment of community/customs relationship to further assist in anti-smuggling operations.
Ali disclosed that government was working assiduously toward installing border posts at necessary locations across the country.
According to him, this had already been factored into the scheme as part of efforts to curb smuggling in the country.
He said the NCS and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) remained the major source of revenue for the Federal Government.
``It is not a matter of choice; it is a must that we must step up our performance in order to garner that money to sustain this nation. We have no choice.
``Oil has gone so low that we can no longer be dependent on oil. Solid minerals have not been developed to the level that it will sustain us.
``So, the only source of stable revenue for the Federal Government is the FIRS and the Customs,’’ he said.