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House set for wholesale reform of customs operations, Gbajabiamila says

House set for wholesale reform of customs operations, Gbajabiamila says
The Speaker of the House of Representatives Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila has assured of the House determination to implement a wholesale reform of customs and excise operations in Nigeria.

In doing so, Gbajabiamila said, the House needed the support of the relevant stakeholders, whose contributions are critical in the legislative process that would strengthen customs operations.

The speaker said this when he declared open a one-day public hearing on the Nigeria Customs Service (establishment) Bill, 2021, organized by the House Committee on Customs and Excise, chaired by Hon. Leke Abejide.

He said the bill was the product of a coordinated effort by the House, "working with stakeholders in the sector, to implement a wholesale reform of customs and excise operations in Nigeria.

"This effort is long overdue, and much needed to address existing challenges with customs enforcement, ports efficiency, smuggling prevention, efficient collection and remittance of government revenue and the proper implementation of government fiscal measures.

"Whether or not we will succeed in these objectives depends largely on the stakeholders gathered here today and the contributions you make to the legislative process."

Gbajabiamila said the Covid-19 pandemic has, among other things, led to a significant decline in global demand for fossil fuels, which coupled with other factors unique to Nigeria, depleted Nigeria's revenue generation from oil and gas.

"This reality is a stark manifestation of the ongoing need to diversify our nation’s economy to improve income from non-oil and gas sources.

"It is also evidence of the need to use the instruments of legislative authority to promote policies and enact mandates to encourage investment, enable commercial activity and promote enterprise in the country.

"Ensuring that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) operates optimally in executing its statutory functions without corruption and malfeasance of any sort is essential to achieve these other objectives. And this is what we hope to achieve with the Bill under consideration."

He encouraged all the stakeholders to take full advantage of the opportunity provided by the public hearing to express their opinions and make informed contributions that would improve the bill to the benefit of Nigerians.

The committee chairman, Hon. Abejide, had earlier in a welcome address said in today's competitive world, the Nigeria Customs Act, its regulations and operational guidelines "are archaic, obsolete, and no longer in tandem with modern-day challenges and this has unfortunately reduced measurably the accruing revenue against the volume of trade."

Thus, he said, the public hearing would provide an opportunity "of transforming the Nigeria Customs Service to being the most potent revenue collecting body in Africa, and to making it the most efficient, streamlined, technologically driven, and people-friendly agency of the Nigerian Government."

Lanre Lasisi, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Speaker, House of Representatives, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
December 14, 2021
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