By Cecilia Ijuo
Abuja – The Senate has passed the Nigerian Customs Service Management Act (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2017.
The passage of the bill followed a clause by clause consideration of the report of Committee on Customs and Excise on the bill as well as a voice vote by the lawmakers.
Presenting the report, the chairman of the committee, Sen. Hope Uzodinma said the Act establishing Customs had not undergone a major overhaul since 1958.
He said the passage of the bill would help to reposition the service which was one of the major sources of revenue generation for the Federal Government.
He said one of the major objectives of the bill was to create a commission that would regulate and oversee activities of the service to ensure optimal performance.
He said the bill also made provision for the appointment of a Comptroller-General from the service by the President subject to confirmation by the Senate.
He stressed that the commission would take up most of the duties of the Minister of Finance, who was currently the head of the Management Board of the service.
“At the beginning of this senate a committee was set up to identify the money bills that will help our distressed economy and one of the bills that the senate earmarked for amendment is the Customs and Excise Management Act.
“The primary purpose of amending this bill is to bring discipline and prudence into Nigeria Customs Service as a major revenue earning Department of Government.
“It is also to use the services of Customs to strengthen border community and facilitate trade.
“The Customs Act was legislated upon last in 1958. This is the first time that this bill is going through a comprehensive overhaul and it is as good as a brand new one.
“This bill has created a Customs Service Commission that is in charge of the day to day management of the service.
“It will be in charge of discipline, conduct, training, deployment of officers, and it has the powers of oversight the various customs operations while ensuring that it is not different from customs in other clients.
“The Chairman of the Commission will be appointed by the President, subject to Senate confirmation and members of the commission are going to be statutory organs of government, Federal Ministry of Finance.
“Others are Federal Ministry of Transport, the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN), the Nigeria Customs Service, Standard Organisation of Nigeria,’’ he said.
Uzodinma further said that the tenure of the Chairman of the commission would be four years with an option to renew for another four years.
He stressed that the creation of the commission was not to jettison the position of the Ministry of Finance, adding that it was to make the work easier.
The lawmaker further said that that with the passage of the bill revenue accruing to customs would improve significantly.
“Currently Customs should get money from non-dutiable items and it should be able to oversee the activities of dutiable cargo and non-dutiable cargo.
“That is what we have done. Now customs will be funded through the existing seven per cent surcharge and additional one per cent charge from the revenue generated,’’ he said.
In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, said the bill, when assented to, would bring about the modernisation of customs procedure in accordance with the requirement of the Revised Convention.
He said, ’’it will also ensure that Nigeria complies with international commitments of World Trade Organisation (WTO).
“ It is a very positive development in ensuring that we have a customs administration that will be more transparent with better clarity.’’