By Wahab Akanji, Abuja
President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki has stated that the Senate will accelerate the repeal and re-enactment of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) of 1958.
According to Saraki the aim of the move is to check corrupt practices amongst staff members and to boost revenue generation for the country.
He made this known at a Public Hearing on the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) Repeal and Re-enactment Bill (2016), organised by Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff on Monday in Abuja.
He said the senate was poised to passing the bill before the end of 2016 to block revenue leakages as well as ensure transparency and accountability in the service.
“When the 8th Senate came on board, we promised that we would seek to introduce new laws to improve revenue generation, curb corruption, and improve on accountability and governance.
“This bill is one of those bills, which even our private sector has identified as critically important to doing business, and relates significantly to the cost of doing business in general. The 8th Senate is determined to ensure that the Customs and Excise department plays the pivotal role it is expected to play as a major funder of the Federal budget.
“It is for this reason that we wasted no time in assigning the proposed bill to the Committee on Customs and Excise for immediate action. With government revenues dwindling rapidly at a time when we have so much to do, this has further made the need for us to block all leakages,’’ he said.
Saraki assured of National Assembly’s readiness to work with the executive arm of government to block revenue leakages in the system.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, Sen. Hope Uzodinma, assured that the committee would ensure speedy submission of reports to accelerate passage of the bill.
He said that the service ought to have contributed at least 50 per cent to the funding of the nation’s budget; its revenue generation was below expectation.
He added that among other things, the service should be able to boost non-oil revenue for the Federal Government as well as fund infrastructural development as was obtainable in other climes.
“For over 100 years after it was established as the Tariff Act of 1789, the United States Customs Department played the major role of infrastructural development.
“It was the primary source of funds for the US Government. Our Customs Department has operated with a colonial act that has not only become obsolete and unrealistic but fraught with loopholes for revenue leakages.
“The consequence of this is that the department is incapable of exhibiting the dynamic initiative that is so crucial for survival in the 21st century global economic matrix.
“It is our expectation that this bill shall properly situate the Customs and Excise Department as a tariff agency of the government.’’
He assured that the 8th National Assembly was determined to ensure that the law establishing the service was reviewed to reflect present day realities.
Saraki noted that the senate would review the act to ensure that the process of revenue collection by the service was in line with international best practice.
“This is not just a public hearing to get inputs for the enactment or amendment of a bill or an act. It is a very unique public hearing aimed at helping to shape a bill that will clinically reinvent our Customs and Excise Department as a more effective and efficient agency and a major revenue earner for government,’’ he said.
In his contributions, the National General Secretary of the Nigerian Association of Auctioneers, Mr Isibor Abhulimen, called for the repeal or clear interpretation of Section 191 of the Act.
He said the repeal or clear interpretation of the Act would help safeguard loss of revenue to the Federation Accounts.