LCCI calls for independent dispute resolution framework between Customs, businesses

THE Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has called for an independent framework that will help to resolve and manage disputes between the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and the business community.

Muda Yusuf, LCCI director-general, said this in a statement addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari and made available to The ICIR on Sunday.

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Yusuf said matters of product valuation and harmonised system of product classification by the NCS was one of the most distressing encounters experienced by investors in the Nigerian economy.

He said the absence of an independent, credible and prompt appeal mechanism with the NCS was a major shortcoming in Nigeria’s international trade process.

“It is a situation that is hurting investment and weakening investors’ confidence. Importers are left entirely at the mercy of the Customs in the absence of a credible, independent window for dispute settlement between the Customs and the private sector. Under the present arrangement, the Customs Service is the accuser and the judge.”

Such a mechanism, Yusuf said, was unfair to investors and not consistent with the principles of natural justice. He said many companies had been compelled to pay outrageous additional charges on imports, thus distorting their investment plans and projections.

He noted that discretionary interpretations of product classification and valuation posed enormous corruption risks in Customs processes in Nigeria.

“Indeed, the biggest corruption risks in the interface between the Customs and the business community are around these two issues. This situation is hurting investors across all sectors – manufacturing, agro-allied, ICT, construction, Services etc.






     

     

    “It is a disincentive to domestic and foreign investment; it creates uncertainty and aggravates investment risk, undermines economic diversification prospects, depresses capacity utilisation, and limits the scope for job creation. It is also not consistent with the vision to make Nigeria a top investment destination.”

    He said that the Nigeria Customs Service had a weak trade facilitation culture and an absence of customer service orientation, stressing that the disposition was hurting investment, frustrating trade, and creating a negative investment sentiment.

    He stated that a presidential intervention had become inevitable, especially with the start of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), noting that there was a need to ensure a balance between regulatory controls, revenue generation and trade facilitation functions of the NCS.

    Yusuf asked President Buhari to issue an executive order creating the independent dispute resolution to restore the confidence of investors in the international trade process in Nigeria.

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