Stakeholders have faulted the Nigerian government for setting revenue target of N1.5tn for the Nigeria Customs Service this year.
They insisted that the job of the Customs was trade facilitation and not revenue generation.
Arguing that, the yearly high target imposition would force the service to forget its primary duty of trade facilitation and occupied itself with meeting revenue targets.
“It is bound to make the Customs desperate because all the commands would start striving to outdo each other in publishing higher revenue figures,” the stakeholders who spoke in separate interviews with newsmen said.
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Afri-United Services Limited, Dr Sam Onyemelukwe, blamed the Customs for creating the impression that they could generate high revenues.
In January 2019, after the government had set a revenue target of N887bn for the Customs, the National Assembly increased the amount to N1.5tn by October of the same year.
Stakeholders blamed this on the Comptroller General of NCS, Col. Hammed Ali (retd.), who had boasted to the Senate and House of Representatives Joint committee on Finance and National Planning that the daily rake-in of the Customs since the borders were closed, hovered between N4.7bn and N5.8bn.
The Customs had also reportedly vowed that it would remit N2tn to the coffers of the government in 2020.
Onyemelukwe, who is also the President, the International Freight Forwarders Association, said it was this impression created by the Customs that had given the government the courage to keep increasing revenue targets for them.
He said, “The Customs should be able to advise the government. If they are mindful of their trade facilitation function, revenue can come on its own.
“Look at the environment that businesses that pay the levies are operating, it is not conducive. I think the government should address the business environment before setting target for trade facilitation agencies.
“There is too much taxation going on in the country. They would want to compare Nigeria and Ghana and say our taxes are low but they also need to look at the business environment in other countries and compare.
“The high revenue target for Customs will eventually hurt the common man because importers who pay Customs levy will transfer the costs to their final consumers.”
Also, the President, National Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, Mr Tony Mwabunike, said the revenue target would make Customs officers more desperate in their bid to meet up.
He agreed with other stakeholders that the primary function of the service was trade facilitation, saying that with this target, officers would become overzealous and start issuing excessive alerts, demand notices which would in turn, frustrate legitimate business.
He said, “This is the only country that is setting target for its Customs. The Customs Service is supposed to facilitate trade and ensure security of goods and services in and out of the country, and moreover to maintain the standard of import guidelines and procedures.
“This issue of setting target for Customs is putting them under pressure. The government should look for trade facilitation; our Customs should not be an Inland Revenue or Value Added Tax agency.
“They should allow Customs to work according to world standard. They should look into the proper nomenclature of how Customs are being run.”
The Director- General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr Muda Yusuf, said the organised private sector was worried about the emphasis on revenue targets as the key performance indicator for the Nigeria Customs Service.
He said, “This orientation is taking a huge toll on businesses. Trade facilitation role of the Customs has been completely relegated. We appreciate the need for revenue by government. But stimulating investment is no less important.”
Yusuf agreed that aggressive drive for revenue by the Customs hurt investment.
He added that there should be a balance between revenue objective and trade facilitation role of the Customs.