Customs:  National Assembly Corrects Discrepancies In CEMA Bill, To Get It Signed Into Law By Buhari     

 By Stephen Ubanna

Uche Ejesieme, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and spokesperson, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, Zone A, who was said to be privileged  to be at the meeting  alongside the acting Chairman of the  Customs and Excise Manament Act, CEMA, review Committee, who incidentally, was the Assistant Comptroller General, ACG, of Customs, Human Resources Development, HRD, and other senior officers of the service,  had said  that there was a mutual agreement  with the parties  to effect  necessary amendments to the 64 year-old CEMA.

Col Ali,rtd: CG Customs

eJesieme, had said that  the review of the CEMA, Cap 2004,  was ‘’intended ‘’to upgrade  some of the extant  laws of trade facilitation  to align  with current  global realities‘’. Given an insider information of how the review of the CEMA, came about, hedisclosed that there was a consensus between the Customs Committee led by the Legal Adviser, comprising members of the National Assembly Committee on Customs, Legal drafting experts from  the Federal ministry of Justice,  and representatives of Abubakar Malami, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, and Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, and minister of Justice, to effect corrections on the proposed bill before presentation to President Muhammadu Buhari, for his assent.The Zonal Customs spokesperson, had said that several meetings were held at REIZ Continental Hotel, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, about a month now, to perfect the CEMA, document.

Prior to the review of the CEMA, which the Katsina state born Nigerian President was said to have refused to sign the bill into Law, clearing agents, under the aegis of National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, NCMDLCA, in March 2020, were said to have urged the Nigerian President ‘’to order a review of  the CEMA, Clause  45 of 2004, to include ‘’procedures and global tools , not contained in the present Act’’.

Lucky Amiwero, the President of the Association, had said that ‘’ there are a lot of new processes and procedures that are applied in the daily transactions of global trade that are not covered in the current CEMA, that needed to be upgraded.  He had cited Post Clearance Audit, PCA, Risk Management System, RMS, Aauthorised Economic Operators, AEO, Scanning, appeal procedure and Right of appeal without penalty, Advance ruling, information publication, and Administration of trade regulation, Financing of Customs service operations and Rule of origin.

Others are Intellectual property right, Mutual administrative assistance, Development of electronic system, Single window platform, travellers and duty free shop, offence and penalty, tenure  and qualification of the Comptroller General.

The National Assembly Committee on Customs, may have thought that they have done good work in the amendment of the 64 year -old CEMA, which was sent to the Committee of the whole House before it was finally sent to the Nigerian President for his assent. They got it wrong.  The President, was said to have refused to sign the CEMA bill into Law and returned into the National Assembly for further work to be done on  October 12, 2022.

Lawan: Senate President

Legal experts in the ministry of Justice of may have spotted some inaccuracies in 24 clauses of the bill and communicated same to the minister, who in turn may have communicated the observations to the President to withhold his assent. The fallout was that the CEMA bill, was returned to the National Assembly.

The biggest worry of the Council of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, CRFFN, on the Customs bill  was the discrepancies between the CEMA, with regards ‘’to the requirements for obtaining a Customs operating license’. Going by the Council’s Act, only CRFN, accredited companies should be granted Customs licenses but the CEMA, only requires a Company to be registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, to obtain the Customs License.  

Gbajabiamila: Speaker, House Of Representatives

Idris Wase, the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, had said that the refusal of the President, to sign the amended CEMA bill, returned to the National Assembly is the third time, because of the observations that was said to have been allegedly  made by the office of the AGF and minister of Justice.

Wase, the Deputy, House Speaker, was said to have told members that ‘’the required corrections have been made on the bill by the House Committee on Customs as it tried to bring out the clauses that had been rejected by the President for further consideration’’.

While the Customs Authorities had said that there was nothing wrong with the amended CEMA, the Leadership of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, had commended the Nigerian President for declining to assent to the CEMA bill into Law. Kayode Farinto, acting President, ANLCA, had said that’’ it was good for the President to have refused to sign the Customs bill into Law, because it had ‘’negated some existing laws’’.

He had cited ’’section 7 of the bill which negates the right of any Nigerian to the Customs to Court’’. According to him, the amended Clause in the CEMA, bill, makes it clear that one ‘’must seek clearance or notify the Management before taking the service to Court. The President may have found the Clause very annoying and suspicious that he has reject it to be among the 24 clauses and Schedules, in the bill,  by both Chambers of the National Assembly that were said to have been rejected by him.

 Farito had said that though, they have not started  operating  on the issue of AEO, yet,  the Customs Authorities, had already laid public might  on this process  which could have assisted the industry to move the nation’s economy forward, insisting that ‘’it must be reviewed’’.

 He had also taken a closer look on the issue of ‘’protection  of intellectual property, stressing that ‘’there is already  an Act supervising this but that the National Assembly which had actually brought the CEMA bill, to the President for his assent into Law,  forgot that ‘’protection  of intellectual property  is an Act itself’’.  He noted that if the President had signed the CEMA, bill into Law’’ it will be flouting and conflicting with the Property and Intellectual Act’’.

Farito, who could not hide his feelings  had said  that if the President had signed the CEMA,  bill,2022, into Law,  the Nigerian importers and exporters, who currently enjoy some incentives  in the  export processing zone,    would  be made ‘’to pay tariffs and levies  to the NCS, on exports’’.

He had said that the rejection of the CEMA bill by the President,  was an opportunity for CRFFN,  to make inputs into the bill, , particular, having representatives on the NCS, Board.   

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