Lagos — The Joint Committee on the Nigeria Customs Service Free Trade Zones Operational Remodeling has submitted a six-point recommendation to the heads of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS; Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, NEPZA; and Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority, OGFZA; for implementation.
The committee was constituted on July 28 when the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, MD/CEO, of NEPZA, Prof. Adesoji Adesugba; MD/CEO of OGFZA, Sen. Tijjani Kaura; and the Executive-Secretary of the NEPZA, Mr Toyin Elegbede; visited the Acting Comptroller-General of Customs, CGC, Mr Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, to demand the streamlining of Customs’ operations within the free zones.
Presenting the report in Abuja, Mr Elegbede, who is the chairman of the committee, expressed delight on the confidence reposed in the members of the committee to undertake the assignment. He stated that the prompt implementation of the committee’s report would help reposition the scheme for greater impact on the economy.
The recommendations included stoppage of irregular invitation of Free Zone Enterprises to the Customs headquarters on procedural matters that should be handled by the Area Controllers, including approval for local purchase, rents and hires.
The committee also prescribed the immediate integration of all Free Zone Enterprises into the IM5 (5900) Customs operations portal and redesigning it to resolve the VAT implication for sales to the Customs territory.
The report further requested the immediate formulation of SOPs and Procedure Codes for both intra and inter zone sales, imports of vehicles, capital goods, spare parts, equipment, furniture and fixtures destined for consumption within the free zone.
The committee requested the Service to allow export of finished and processed goods containing 100 per cent local raw materials with minimum stipulated VAT either mentioned in the Import Prohibition list of Customs or in the 44 restricted list of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
In addition, the committee recommended the immediate creation of Procedure Codes that would kick-start the implementation of the Federal Ministry of Finance Circular No. F182079 dated 22nd December, 2022 and letter Ref. No. HMFBNP/NCS/LPG/10/2022 dated 4th October, 2022, respectively on some specific incentives.
The report listed the incentives to include 75 per cent Duty Rebate for approved products in Oil and Gas Free Zones and the exemption of domestic production and sale of LPG from Custom Duty and VAT.
The rest incentives are to comply with regulatory procedures provided in OGFZA and NEPZA Regulations with respect to inspection of free zones containers without the knowledge of the Authorities, delay in inspection of cargo, stoppage of cargo in transit and raising query on importation of same as well as posting of customs officers to the free zones without the knowledge of the two Authorities
Also, the committee recommended expeditious harmonization of all the areas of conflict contained in the legal frameworks of NCS, NEPZA and OGFZA respectively.
The NCS boss, while speaking occasion, promised to immediately adopt those recommendations that fell within the operational policy of the service for implementation.
“We must do what is necessary to boost the economy. I was worried to hear that some of our actions had inhibited the free flow of revenues from the scheme.
“We were meant to have a coordinated collaboration and cooperation to ensure the country obtains significant benefit from the free zone scheme. All hands must now be on deck to make that happen.
“In demonstrating our commitment to streamline our policy and operations for effective management of the free zones, I wish to suggest that this committee is converted to become the Implementation Committee that will midwife the implementation of these recommendations. I wish to thank all of you for a job well done,’’ he said.
Adesugba and Kaura applauded the genuine commitment of the new Customs boss toward addressing all the listed conflict areas, noting that the two regulatory bodies and the entire free trade zones’ stakeholders, through NEPZA, would scale-up collaboration with the Customs service to make the scheme more attractive.