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Clearing agents seek withdrawal of Customs bill over AfCFTA breach

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Abiola Seun The National Council of Managing Director of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, to order the withdrawal of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) draft bill 2022 from the National Assembly, saying it does not reflect the Trade Facilitation Agreement (FTA) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) doctrines.The President of NCMDLCA, Lucky Amiwero, said due to the importance of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) to the economy as an instrument that assists the Federal Government to formulate proper trade and fiscal policy direction, the draft bill must be withdrawn, reviewed and redrafted to accommodate the shortfalls of international conventions, treaties and protocol missing in the draft.Amiwero said the 2022 bill, which still has the same content as the bill that was rejected by the Federal Government in 2013, is now represented in both the Senate and the House of Representatives without been subjected to public hearing.He said the conflicting 283 clauses in the Nigeria Customs Service bill will hinder trade, fiscal policy, international investment and protection of the international trade community.“The bill is not for the personnel of the NCS as has been designed, structured and titled, but as an instrument to regulate Trade and Fiscal policy of the economy by the Federal Government.“Globally, Customs Act is trade instrument designed based on international conventions, for universal trade application that is structured such that the President of the country proclaims, designate, declares and initiates policies, while the Minister regulates policies; the NCS board gives the direction of policies and the Customs service implements the policies.“In the draft bill, NCS was unduly allocated with uncontrollable powers over the President, the Ministers and other government agencies on policy-making, regulation of the economy on trade and fiscal policies as well as other matters, which negate the principle of global best practice on administration, control and management of Trade/Customs Act. “In the bill, Customs initiate, regulate, direct and implement as well as serve as judge, lawyer and prosecutor, which contravenes the WTO, WCO, IMO, UNCTAD, TFA, Kyoto convention, procedures, rules and regulation and other international treaties, which Nigeria is a contracting party,” Amiwero said.

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