The introduction of electronic valuer and electronic invoicing for import and export by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is a breach of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA). The new system violates the Customs and Excise Administration (Amendment) Act 20 of 2003 on the valuation of goods, and the Customs and Excise Administration Act C 45 of 2004 for import and export regulation procedure .
Valuation of Goods in Nigeria, prescribed under CEMA 20 of 2003 (as amended), gave the power of treatment, process, procedures and determination of valuation of goods under the law based on the domestication of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement under Articles III of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). The authority to issue import and export directives resides with the Minister of Finance as prescribed in Sections 36 and 57 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 2004. These are the only legal instruments for the processing, procedure and application of imported goods. in Nigeria, as well as the regulation of importing into the country by sea, air and land. Based on this, there is no provision giving the CBN the power to amend the Import Commodity Valuation Act or the Regulations on the Procedure for Issuance of Import and Export Guidelines, in particular when its main function is monetary policy with respect to the exchange rate.
Applying import and export benchmarks violates CEMA. Benchmarks are not acceptable as their treatment falls under the Brussels definition of value, which is prohibited globally.
I would like to urge the apex bank to ensure compliance with the law by withdrawing the circular, noting that if implemented, it will lead to duplication, as well as lengthy and cumbersome procedures in the national import system and export, especially for those who are not experts in valuation, import and export. Further, I would like to advise the CBN not to duplicate the functions of the Ministry of Finance and those of the Nigerian Customs Service in matters of valuation, determination, invoicing, documentation and electronic application procedures.
The process will force importers to pay more as they will also be charged by customs officers on duty. No matter how accurate a product’s value is, the Nigeria Customs Service has a way of finding a non-existent defect and extorting money from traders. The process is not the problem, but the apex bank needs proper consultation with all stakeholders. This includes traders, the presidency, lawmakers and the Nigeria Customs Service, and is seeking a solution.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), under the amended Act 7 of 2007, misinterprets Section 2 subsection ae. Subsection 2a stipulates that the CBN must enforce monetary and price stability to meddle in matters affecting importation that fall under fiscal policies. We must reiterate that the question of fiscal policies and monetary policies is very clear and unambiguous about the agencies responsible for them. The Federal Ministry of Finance is expected to be responsible for implementing fiscal policies through the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), while the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will implement monetary policies. The CBN started by issuing an exchange prohibition list for more than 80 items, which are not on the import prohibition list and these directives led to situations where the various commercial banks refused to open. Form M for Nigerian traders/importers, except for very few privileged traders who can produce CBN waiver letters. This alone caused two problems in our import and export documents. The problems have led to a situation where many importers, out of frustration, have resorted to false import declarations, thus affecting the level of compliance and a reduction in revenue that should be paid into the federation’s account. Various commercial banks have started to extort innocent importers to apply for waiver approval even when these importers got the forex from the black market. The issue of misrepresentation has now become a norm in people’s daily lives, which negatively affects the level of compliance.
The CBN is expected to focus on its core functions of monetary policy and not fiscal policy, which has led to misrepresentations on imports. The CBN cannot assess prices as this is the primary function of the Nigerian Customs Service under the Customs and Excise Administration Act (CEMA) which provides for the value of imported goods which mainly operates based on the Customs Valuation Agreement.
The automation of customs procedures has been a key element of customs reforms and modernization initiatives, including electronic invoicing, and it is important to facilitate trade, as highlighted by international organizations such as the World Trade Organization. (WTO), the World Bank, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The Central Bank of Nigeria should be mandated to publish the list of foreign exchange recipients on a monthly basis and also analyze the list of defaulters i.e. those who received foreign exchange, for import purposes but who did not use them for this purpose.
Politics will negatively affect people’s business. Personally, my business will be affected because the government should not determine the unit price for importers. There is a major problem in the market which is the shortage of currencies which cannot be solved by regulating the price. How can you tell me the price at which I should buy and sell my goods when you are not helping me with production or financing? Also, the policy will inevitably lead to a shortage of goods in the country and trigger inflation. The requirement for foreign companies to register directly could backfire on their companies as they have no control over the foreign entities. The price monitoring plan is unrealistic. For example, I get an agreement with a supplier overseas, and they reserve space for my goods on the ship, and I can’t pay for them, so they will charge me the debt freight. I will lose the business relationship because the supplier will think that I am not a serious buyer.
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