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Thursday, 28 June 2012

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan Speech at the Customs Cooperation Council/World Customs Organization in Brussels, Belgium

United Nations - New York - June 08 2011 - Press Conference by Goodluck Jonathan, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria today at the UN Headquarters in NYC. The newly elected president is at the UN for the HIV/AIDS meetings...Credit: Luiz Rampelotto/ Europa Newswire (Europa Newswire/Luiz Rampelotto)
It gives me great pleasure to address you all on this auspicious occasion of the 119th/120th Sessions of the Customs Cooperation Council, which also marks the Diamond Jubilee anniversary celebration of the World Customs Organization (WCO)

Having served in the Customs Service in the early years of my life, I consider my presence with you, today, as some form of home-coming.

I wish, therefore, to thank the Secretary General of the WCO, Mr. Kunio Mikuruya and members of the Secretariat for inviting me; and providing me the platform to share with you Nigeria’s perspectives on how best customs administrations can positively support and contribute to the realisation of the economic growth and development objectives of countries. 

Chairperson, Distinguished Delegates,

When the founding fathers of this organisation came together here on the 15th of December 1950, to sign the Convention establishing the then Customs Cooperation Council (CCC), they had envisaged high-level cooperation and collaboration in Customs matters across national and international barriers. Sixty years on, it is gratifying to note that the WCO has succeeded in keeping that vision alive. 

With a membership of 177 Customs Administrations, it is easily understandable why the Council is today regarded as the Voice of the Global Customs Community. The Chairperson, the Secretary-General and his team here in Brussels, as well as all Customs Administrations and other members of the WCO deserve our very warm congratulations on this landmark 60th Anniversary celebration. 

However, as we celebrate the remarkable achievements that you have recorded over the years, I consider it most apposite that I focus my address on the changing role of customs in the new world economy that is being driven by increasing trends of liberalisation and globalisation. This challenge is further complicated by the fact that the responsibilities of customs administrations vary from country to country; and the fact that they are often subject to regular review and modification to ensure their continuing relevance in our constantly changing global economic environment.

The role of customs administrations has undergone significant transformation since the early 1990s; gradually, but steadily evolving from trade transactions management for revenue purposes on the one hand, to trade facilitation, protection of society, and the security of international trade supply chains on the other. This, no doubt, is a reflection of not only the changing environment in which customs authorities operate, but also the corresponding changes in the priorities of governments. 

Consequently, the greatest challenge at the national level has been how best to successfully design and implement those reform and modernisation initiatives that would positively contribute to the achievement of the desired economic growth and development objectives. 

Similarly, there are also challenges arising from the responses by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the WCO and other international organisations and bodies, in the continuing search and the development of those global standards that recognise the changing role of customs administration, including the nature of border management.

Chairperson, Distinguished Delegates,

As you are all aware, the growing wave of trade liberalisation and regional integration arrangements, particularly in developing countries, including Nigeria, has clearly changed the tenor and character of the trade and tariff policies of these governments. 

This development has also had a significant impact on customs administrations due to the direct linkages between trade policy reform and customs administration, especially with respect to the role of customs in trade policy formulation and the impact of trade policy changes on customs administrations. In the first instance, critical information that is usually essential for the planning and designing of reforms by governments resides in the customs administrations. 

In addition, given the role of customs administrations in trade facilitation, they have always remained critical in the ability of governments to maximise the benefits from reforms, including enhancing and deepening trade integration between members of any regional trading arrangement. Under this circumstance, there is the possibility that customs administrations may constitute an obstacle to the success of trade policy reforms, if there is resistance to the necessary modernisation that should result from changes in the policies and priorities of governments.

On the influence that trade policy reforms have on the tasks being performed by customs administrations, the real challenge remains the capacity of Customs to review its own policies, strategise and adapt to the new thrust in government policy, particularly through the redeployment of resources to fulfill the new emerging functions. These include such areas as strengthening the valuation system; reduction in physical inspections; risk profiling and greater reliance on post-clearance audits; rules of origin; and the strengthening of monitoring and supervision to ameliorate the fraudulent use of suspensive regimes, including bonded transit and warehousing.

Overall, it should be acknowledged that both the success of trade policy reforms and customs administration depend on the proper synchronisation of the two processes through the re-evaluation of the various objectives of the Customs service, and a redefinition of its functions, organisation, and methods of operation.

Chairperson, Distinguished Delegates,

The expansion in the traditional role of Customs, as an enforcement agency, to that of trade facilitation in the 21st Century, has led to the emergence of Customs as a prominent business partner to industry players. Customs administrations must therefore see themselves in the context of the twin roles of trade facilitator and guardian of the community. 

As trade facilitator, they should be committed to building strategic partnerships with the business sector, including helping to maintain the competitive edge of the local industry.

I do believe that the benefits of greater efficiency, enhanced competitiveness and higher productivity in the new global economic environment would be better achieved if the Customs service is responsive to the needs of industry in the areas of simplification of procedures; efficient processing of shipments; and the transparent use of rules and regulations. 

Furthermore, Customs can assist the business sector to minimise the costs arising from the unexpected loss of time through the attainment of just-in-time deliveries and avoidance of stock accumulation and prolonged warehousing.

This notwithstanding, the prevailing state of global insecurity requires us all not to lose focus on the traditional enforcement role of Customs. In this respect, customs administrations would need to strengthen themselves and ensure that their specific control mandate is used not only to guard against illegal activities, but also protect the integrity of our socio-economic systems.

Collaboration between customs administrations is critical, especially within the context of regional and multilateral cooperation. This is important for addressing national and regional security issues relating to the rising menace of terrorism; the proliferation of light weapons, narcotics, smuggling, money-laundering and other cross-border crimes. It is gratifying to note that the WCO has already developed various tools and instruments to enhance collaborative efforts in this direction.

Chairperson, Distinguished Delegates,

I must make the point that the reform and modernisation of customs administrations in developing countries is being hampered by challenges such as outdated procedures; inadequate legislation; limited ICT application; institutional and human resource capacity; and coordination and cooperation with other regulatory authorities like the tax and ports administrations.

It is my pleasure to share with you what my Administration is doing to overcome some of these challenges, in order to enhance Customs efficiency as well as foster greater collaboration with relevant Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

Recognising that the traditional Customs control methodology can no longer adequately address the needs of industry in the new globalised business environment, my Administration is committed to the continuous review and revision of customs procedures. In particular, we aim to reduce the cost of doing business through savings in paper work, and reduction in the total transaction cost, including cargo clearance and risk assessment. In addition, Nigeria appreciates the need to ensure minimal physical contact and presumptive discretion; and to entrench accountability and transparency in trade and investment transactions through the sharing and exchange of experiences and best practices. 

We have introduced the Single Window concept; reduced the number of agencies operating at the ports; introduced the one-stop-check procedure in customs clearance; established Inland Container Depots; and strengthened other sister agencies like the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC). 

All these measures are geared towards ensuring that the operational efficiency of Customs is enhanced, in order to maintain a high degree of compliance whilst facilitating the smooth movement of goods and persons, and reducing possible disruption in legitimate trade.

On legislation, the review of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) Cap 45 Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 along with other customs and excise notices, decrees, and guidelines is on-going. In particular, the Law would be duly aligned with the WTO Customs Valuation Agreement with a view to strengthening the implementation of customs formalities and clearance procedures. 

Similarly, efforts are being made to bring Nigeria’s customs law in line with international best practices such as the Revised Kyoto Convention, implementation of the border provisions of the WTO TRIPS Agreement, and the WCO SAFE framework on standards. The new legislation will also strengthen the penalty structure to ensure an adequate level of deterrence. 

Nigeria is committed to the ongoing Doha Round negotiations on Trade Facilitation, with priority attached to the sections dealing with substantive disciplines, special and differential treatment, as well as technical assistance and capacity building. A National Trade Facilitation Committee has been established to coordinate and provide technical backstopping to our Geneva-based negotiators.

With respect to ICT application, the main objective is to move away from the current labour intensive operating method to electronic and automation systems, using the latest technologies that would promote the adoption of the appropriate tools for facilitation and compliance purposes. My Government has provided the enablement for full automation of Customs processes, so as to ensure the simplification of procedures, speedy documentation, and the promotion of transactional transparency.

Chairperson, Distinguished Delegates,

To complement the on-going reform and modernisation of the Nigeria Customs Service, my Administration is committed to the maintenance and upgrading of the country’s extensive transport system of roads, railways, inland waterways, sea ports and airports. 

In particular, we are undertaking appropriate reforms in maritime transport and port operations, which aim at enhancing the capacity of existing regulatory institutions like the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). Twenty-six concessionaires are presently operating in six existing ports, under the landlord system that has been introduced. The existing port terminals have been leased out to private companies, with concession periods of 10 or 25 years. 

While the NPA retains responsibility for planning and development, as well as nautical management and regulations, the private companies are responsible for terminal operations, employment of port labour, land-based investment and the maintenance of infrastructure and equipment. The companies may also undertake new investments. 

The government is working on a Ports and Harbours Bill that is expected to further strengthen and sustain the policy shift to private-sector operation of ports under concession agreements.

As a corollary, the reforms which we have instituted in the Nigeria Customs Service would need to be enforced and implemented by competent, professional and dedicated people. Consequently, we need to focus on programmes that promote and enhance staff training, career development, professionalism, morale and integrity. 

I was delighted to meet the Secretary-General when I officially commissioned the Customs Command and Staff College in our nation’s capital, Abuja. I would like to seize this opportunity to thank the Secretary-General and member States for designating the Staff College as a Regional Training Centre. I am happy to inform you that the College is already being put to very good use.

Chairperson, Distinguished Delegates,

I wish to reaffirm before you all at this Forum, that the Nigerian Customs Service has the unstinted support of the Federal Government of Nigeria as it rightfully lives up to its onerous responsibilities in our region and within the World Customs Organization.

I would like to conclude by saluting the leadership of the WCO for their inspired choice of connectivity as the theme for the 60th Anniversary celebration. In the light of the prevailing realities in today’s world, the choice could not have been more apt. I urge that connectivity, and all that it connotes, remains the eternal ethos of not only all customs administrations across the world, but all of the world’s governments and peoples as we collectively strive to evolve a more secure, just, equitable, peaceful and prosperous world.

While congratulating you all once again on your Diamond Jubilee celebrations, I wish you very fruitful and fulfilling deliberations at the sessions of the World Customs Organization. 

Thank you.

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