Okonjo-Iweala faults provisions of Customs bill

Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The Finance Minister thinks the NCS bill currently under review by Nigeria’s legislators will stifle the economic goals of the government.

 

Nov. 5 (PREMIUM TIMES) -The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Monday faulted the proposed Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, bill, saying it vested too much power in the Customs.

The bill aims to repeal the Customs and Excise Management Act (2004) and enact the Nigeria Customs Service Act.

Ms. Okonjo-Iweala criticized the NCS bill at the public hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Finance in Abuja.

She noted that the Customs Service is an important tool for revenue collection and for facilitation of trade between countries being supervised by the Ministry of Finance.

She said the bill vested too many powers in the customs at the expense of the president and the minister, thereby making it inimical to the economic goals of the government.

“We do not consider this a good bill at the moment, in terms of the economic development of the country and we think that it would need significant amendment of some sections.

“With the present bill, the policy making and executing powers are all vested largely in the Customs and are not separate.

“Many of the powers of the president that are granted in the former bill have now been rescinded and many of the powers of the minister in the former bill have also now been rescinded,” she said.

The finance minister noted that the existing law provides that the board of the NCS shall be under the control of the Minister of Finance, who has the powers to make appointment into the board.

Ms. Okonjo-Iweala said that the minister’s powers to appoint members of the board were limited to a few persons while large powers of appointing the member were vested in the Customs Service.

“You can’t have an organisation having the large powers to appoint members to its own board, to supervise itself. You have to separate these issues.

The minister, who stressed the need for a review of the Customs, added that the bill as presently constituted would not augur well for the economic development of Nigeria, if passed into law.

She called for partnership between the executive and the legislature to address the grey areas of the bill to ensure the enactment of a balanced law that would guarantee balance of power.

The Chairman of the committee, Ahmed Makarfi, gave the assurance that the senate would provide legislations that would be beneficial to the economy.

Mr. Makarfi urged the stakeholders to make meaningful contributions to the outcome of the proposed legislation.

Declaring the public hearing open, the Senate President, David Mark, commended the 7th senate for the historic effort to review the laws of the Customs.

Represented by the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, Mr. Mark said the amendment of the Customs Management Act was long overdue. He urged the stakeholders to make inputs that would help the National Assembly to enact a balanced legislation.

“The 7th Senate is making history by reforming the Nigeria Customs Service by repealing existing laws to bring it in conformity with international laws,” the senate leader said.

The NCS Comptroller-General, Abdullahi Dikko, was represented at the occasion by his deputy in charge of Corporate Support Services, John Atteh.

The Ministry of Trades and Investment, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission and the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria attended the public hearing.


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