By Gboyega Oni
To save the nation’s economy from the menace of smuggling, the Federal Government must come hard diplomatically on the governments of both Niger Republic and Benin Republic, where a large chunk of smuggled goods in circulation in Nigeria come from.
Government is also advised to embrace use of technology in cargo clearance, address high tariffs and employ more hands to join the present workforce of the Nigeria Customs Service to man the nation’s porous borders, which are more than 1000.
The government on Monday May 7, 2018 was advised by Engineer Joseph Makoju, Managing Director, Dangote Cement and Professor Uche Uwaleke of Nasarawa State University, Keffi while featuring on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) programme, Good Morning Nigeria. Other guest was Mr. Aminu Dangaladima, Deputy Comptroller General of Customs, Nigeria Customs Service.
Engineer Joseph Makoju said that Nigerian manufacturers are heavily suffering because of continuous influx of smuggled good in the system and noted that more than 50 percent of the smuggled goods in the circulation come from Benin Republic and wondered why it is difficult for Nigeria to handle the country.
Professor Uche Uwaleke identified high tariffs in Nigeria and non implementation of the Common External Tariffs (CET) by members of Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) as the root cause of smuggling.
He noted that smuggling distorts prices of goods produced by local companies just as government loses revenue to smugglers, noting that smuggling persists because our borders are porous and not properly manned, stating that out of over 1000 borders of the country only 100 were approved by government for the customs to man.
Mr. Aminu Dangaladima admitted that tariffs are high in Nigeria but said smuggling is a major challenge to the Service, noting that borders in Katsina, Kano, Ogun and Lagos are the most notorious roots for smuggling in the country. He said that the Customs is aware of the local rice production policy of the government and is doing everything humanly possible to minimize smuggling.
On delay in cargo clearance in the ports, Dangaladima said genuine importers and customs agents would not face delay in having their cargo cleared except non-patriotic ones.
Proffering solution, Engineer Makoju called for more involvement of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) in the government’s economic policy formulation and more importantly taskforce on smuggling. He advocated zero tolerance for open display of smuggled goods in the market and deployment of technology in cargo clearance.
“We can play a big part in the arrest of smugglers and smuggled goods in the open markets. Nigeria should declare war on smuggling and cannot fold its hands allowing local industries to be run down by smuggling. We want to be industrialized like South Africa and India and we must get our policies right to block leakages that undermine our economy.
“We are still far behind in applying technology in cargo clearance. We need to look at this area. We can borrow such technology from other developed economies,” advised Makoju.
Uwaleke advised Nigerian government to collaboration with her neighbouring countries, address high tariff differential, enforce the implementation of CET and employ more hands for the Service.
“We need to collaborate with our neighbouring countries of Niger, Benin and Cameroun on smuggling,” he said.
However, Dangaladima agreed with Uwaleke on the collaboration with Niger Republic, Benin Republic and Cameroun Republic and pointed out that the Service had in 2014 collaborated with these countries and donated vehicles and other items to motivate them to end smuggling from their ends but noting came out of it.
He assured the manufacturers that they would be part of a national joint taskforce that will soon be put in place by the federal government, informing that the Service had entered into collaboration with the Nigerian Navy, Air Force and Military on the fight against smuggling.
On use of technology in cargo clearance, Dangaladima said the Service will soon procure new scanners for cargo clearance.