The Director General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr. Muda Lawal has urged on the Federal Government to give tax and duty reliefs to manufacturers to build their capacity to curb smuggling and encourage local manufacturing.
Lawal made the call in Lagos at a seminar on compliance to trade laws, noting that manufacturers were finding it difficult to produce cheaply because of the hostile environment of heavy tax and duty which has given undue advantage to foreign goods to compete favourably and smuggling to thrive.
He said that the high level of non-compliance with import and export trade laws was caused by cumbersome and conflicting trade regulations being churned out by both the federal ministries of finance and trade and investment, pointing out that differential in our trade policies with our neighbouring countries allows smuggling to persist and thrive.
‘Smuggling arisen from defective government’s cargo import policies,’ he said.
Speaking further, the LCCI DG said non-compliance to trade laws by both government officials and import/export stakeholders was because of lack of severe sanctions. He said that most of our trade laws were long created and they carry soft penalties. He however called for stiff penalties bigger than the benefits that would discourage trade law violators.
According to Muda, who called for removal of laws and regulations that impinge the Ease of Doing Business from success, ‘some regulations from the Ministry of finance and the ministry of trade, investment and Industry often cause problem for the industry. Government should remove the regulations that do not add value to the Ease of Doing Business in the economy. Severity and certainty of sanctions against trade law violation will ensure compliance.’
Calling for a good balance between import and export, Muda said that compliance with the import and export laws would impact on revenue generation drive of the government, security/safety of Nigerians, provide a level playing field for manufacturers and boost the image of the country internationally.
Wondering why the Nigeria Customs Service dissipate so much energy on chasing smugglers when our trade policies are defective, Muda said some of the regulators are very weak in terms of finance, capacity, logistics thus constrain them from executing the laws.
He commended the Nigerian Shippers Council towards growing trade and investment in the port and for organising the seminar to educate stakeholders in cargo trade. He however called for application of technology to deal with cargo documentation and release, simplification of documents, limitation to discretionary power given to government agencies that breeds corruption and heavy sanctions and penalties to discourage non-compliance.
Earlier in his address, the Executive Secretary/CEO of Nigerian Shippers Council, Barrister Hassan Bello, said the seminar was an ongoing crusade to sensitise the industry of unwholesome practices and the danger to the growth of the nation.
Speaking through Chief Cajetan Agu, Deputy Director, Compliance and Monitoring, Bello maintained that nearly all stakeholders were involved in infraction in cargo movement in and out of the country, saying that this leads to delay in cargo release, diversion of cargo and massive revenue loss to the government.
Informing that the Council would continue to provide a plain field for all stakeholders to operate, Bello said ‘we shall remain neutral, unbiased regulator.’
According to him, ‘we believe that improvement of compliance level at various border posts calls for partnership, collaboration and synergy between government and the private sector. We are collaborating with relevant government agencies and ministries to ensure that policies are streamlined to encourage fair trade policies, block revenue leakages and guarantee maximum revenue yield for the country.’