Nigeria: Customs boss warns of stiffer penalties as new law takes effect

The Acting Comptroller-General of Customs, Wale Adeniyi, on Monday warned of stiffer penalties on trades and other customs stakeholders involved in sharp practices.

Adeniyi made this known in Abuja at a Two-Day Sensitisation Workshop on the Nigeria Customs Service Act (NCSA) 2023.

According to him, the new customs law, Nigeria Customs Service Act, which replaced the 63-year -old customs act, had stiffer penalties for infractions.

The customs boss said under the new law, the service had been statutorily empowered to administer and enforce provisions of the Act.

He added that the new law further empowers the service to promote trade facilitation, prevent smuggling activities and carry out border enforcement among others.

Adeniyi said it became necessary to re-enact the new CEMA because the old act has been in operation for a long time without significant amendment.

“CEMA had become obsolete and could no longer adequately meet the contemporary fiscal policies of government and the mandate of the service.

“This situation propelled the National Assembly through a private member Bill to initiate the repeal and enactment of a new Nigeria Customs Service Bill.

“The new law addresses some of the defeats in CEMA and has introduced innovative solutions in the implementation process,” he said.

Adeniyi said in view of the fact that the new law had new procedures, processes and very stiff punitive provisions, the service would continue to sensitise the public on its provisions.

“As a responsible institution, we are not unmindful of the fact that members of the public are not yet familiar with the provisions of this Act,”he said.

He said the service would embark on adequate sensitisation to prevent the excuse of ignorance of the law, adding that ignorance of the law will not be a defence..

“We will bring into the sensitisation fold, stakeholders like importers, manufacturers, Customs agents, journalists among others.

The Director, Legal Services of the Nigeria Customs Service, Mr Smart Akande, said the new act also introduced fundamental changes to the operations of the service.

He said the new act had 282 sections as against the old one with 195 sections.

According to him critical changes were made to the new act to meet modern day realities of the service.

“The act provides for stiffer punishment for contravention of the act such as increase in fines and prison terms for offenders.

“With the new law, the status of the service has equally changed from being non personality to a jurisdictive person that can sue and be sued.

“Furthermore, Section 14, a novel section, provides for the appointment of C-G among officers not below the rank of Assistant Comptroller-General.

“Before now non -career officers were appointed.

Akande further said, “previously, seven per cent cost of collection was used to fund the budget of customs.

“This has been found to be inadequate to fund capital and recurrent expenditures of the service.

“There will equally be transparency for ease of doing business among others with the new act.”

The News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) reports that critical stakeholders from various agencies at the workshop expressed satisfaction over the numerous benefits of the new CEMA.

According to them, the provisions for ease of doing business, trade facilitation and electronic system as well cross border trade as contained in the new law are commendable.

NAN further reports that the two-day workshop witnessed various presentations on details of each section of the new Act.