Customs Bill: NEPZA Warns Against Weakening Free Zones
The Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) has warned that sections of the Customs Service Reform Bill that seek to empower the Nigeria Customs Service to make regulations in free zones will weaken and subvert the country’s special economic zones.
The NEPZA gave the warning at the ongoing public hearing on the bill at the House of Representatives, according to a statement by its Head, Corporate Communications, Martins Odeh.
It said, “Free zones are areas designated as such by the President to serve as one-stop-shop investment hub wherein incentives are provided in form of tax holidays, simplified Customs and Immigration processes, amongst others, with a view to attracting investors.
“The One-Stop-Shop concept, in furtherance of which regulations were made for all the active free zones with the involvement of the Nigeria Customs Service and all relevant stakeholders, would be eroded if the provisions of the bill are allowed”.
It added that by providing regulations for the free zones, the NCS would be setting a dangerous precedent, as other agencies would want to do the same.
NEPZA said the development, if not addressed promptly, would result in either multiple regulations that might be contradictory, thereby creating avoidable legal tussles, or make registration of enterprises unnecessarily cumbersome and unattractive.
“The proposed sections of the bill which seek to make the free zones Customs-controlled zones invariably seek to create antithetical Free Zones Customs Territory alien to the global free trade zone model used around the world”, it said.
Lekki Port Invests $100m In Equipment
The promoters of Lekki Port and Lekki Freeport Terminal have said the Port has invested over $100 million in equipment, and would begin transshipment of cargoes in the coming weeks
They said the move would see Nigeria recover lost cargoes from neighbouring West African countries.
The Chief Commercial Officer, Lekki Freeport Terminal, Kehinde Olubi-Neye, who disclosed this during a chat with newsmen in Lagos, assured that the port has the technical capacity, draft and state-of-the-art equipment to recover transship cargoes bound for landlocked countries.
“The opportunity is to explore transshipment of cargoes to other regional countries in Africa.
“We are in the process of transshipment with the support of Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) when the first transhipment vessel arrives in the coming weeks.
“The Lekki Freeport Terminal has discussed with stakeholders, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and they are confident that recovering transshipment cargoes not just for the hinterland but also for landlocked countries and other regional countries will be back in the country.
“We are here to connect global maritime trade into Nigeria, and that is why we have the deepest draft here. We do not have this draft anywhere else in Lagos and arguably, in some of the West African countries as well,
“We are not here to compete with other ports but to render services to the Nigerian people. The volume of cargoes coming into the port is low at the moment, but vessels are already using the ports”, he said.
Olubi-Neye said the port has also seen the opportunity to play a role in the uptake of cargo in the eastern port, saying that is why they are currently having discussions on moving containers discharged at Lekki Port by barge to Calabar, Warri, and Onitsha River Port, among others, to help increase the economy of those ports.
The Commercial Officer said the port is exploring the possibility of moving cargo by barges, and has been able to execute more than five barge moves of over 900 twenty-foot equivalent units of containers (TEUs) from Lekki Port to the Ikorodu area of Lagos.
Earlier, the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, described Lekki Port as a Nigerian project and assured that the NPA would do everything within its powers to grant necessary approvals and provide marine services to the port.
Represented by the Manager, Public Affairs of NPA, Ikechukwu Magarian, Bello said the Lekki Port would shape the maritime economy of the country and called on Nigerians to embrace and promote the port.
MWUN’s Chair Lauds President-General’s Leadership Qualities
The Chairman, Maritime Barge Operators Unit of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Mr Olawale Cole, has commended the President General of the Union, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, for his leadership quality.
He said Adeyanju’s role in MWUN has led to the transformation of the union under his leadership.
Cole, who stated this during an interview with newsmen, described Adeyanju as a transformer who has proven that he has what it takes to take the union to a far greater height.
The Maritime Barge Chairman also congratulated the MWUN President on his emergence as the Deputy President of the Nigeria Labour Congress.
According to him, being a versatile labour man, Adeyanju will use his new position to further enhance the working relationship between stakeholders and workers in the maritime sector.
He thanked the union’s President General for his generosity, particularly as it affects members of MWUN.
Customs Impounds Military Uniforms From Smugglers
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Federal Operations Unit, Zone B Kaduna State, says it has intercepted a sack of military uniforms and others from smugglers with a Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N628 million in one month.
The zone’s Area Controller, Musa Jalo, who disclosed this to newsmen shortly after the seizure, said the military wears which were intercepted between March and April 2023, were enroute to Nigeria from the Niger Republic.
He said during the period, the zone made 188 seizures of 17 different contrabands at different locations in the zone.
“Our operatives, while on a stop and search operation, intercepted one Volkswagen Golf driven by a Nigerian citizen along Jibia-Katsina Road.
“During the operation, the officers observed and identified a sack in the vehicle that was later opened, and assorted military camouflage shirts, trousers, and t-shirts were found”, he said.
Jalo added that after further examination and interrogation, the driver was identified to be a Nigerien and was delivering the uniforms to an unknown person in Katsina State.
“The uniforms were counted to be 22 pairs of foreign tactical military camouflage shirts and trousers and another 25 pieces of military camouflage t-shirts”, he added.
According to Jalo, the seized military uniforms have been handed over to the Directorate of Security Services for further investigation and possible prosecution.
“Also, based on credible intelligence, operatives of the unit intercepted one used Mitsubishi Canter with number plate AKR 10 XG conveying sacks of Cannabis Sativa, otherwise known as marijuana, concealed with bags of cassava flakes and sawdust along Bungudu-Tsafe Road in Zamfara State.
“After physical examination, the vehicle was found to contain 46 sacks of Marijuana, with a street value of N2.1 million”, he said.
Jalo said the operatives also intercepted a white narcotic substance together with two male suspects and one locally made pistol at the Maigatari axis of Jigawa State.
He said on further tests of the substance by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Kaduna State Command, the illegal substance was discovered to be Opium with a total weight of 422 grams.
“The street value of the Opium substance is N31 million. The 422 grams of Opium substance together with the suspects and one locally-made pistol were handed over to the Kaduna State Command of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency”, he said.
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