At the invitation of the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Mr. Abdullahi Dikko Inde, the WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya visited Nigeria on 17 and 18 February 2014 to observe Customs transformation activities after the termination of Destination Inspection contracts on 1 December 2013.
In Lagos, the Secretary General went to Apapa Port, Nigeria’s major port, to see Customs operations and also to visit the Customs Training Centre for a mentorship talk with young officers: the NCS has recruited many recent university graduates and trained them in computer and other necessary skills.
Secretary General Mikuriya also presided over a Stakeholder Forum to interact with the private sector. The business community were supportive of the ongoing Customs transformation programme that was enhanced by an improved communication strategy for Customs, the use of information technology – the Nigeria Trade Hub – and the implementation of modern Customs methods, such as risk management.
The private sector also suggested better use of a database for risk management purposes, including valuation, and expressed their hope for the introduction of coordinated border management and a Single Window to simplify the multiplicity of regulations and inspections at borders.
Later, the Secretary General travelled to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, and was joined by three heads of Customs from neighbouring countries, namely Benin, Ghana and Niger, who wanted to learn from NCS’s experience and obtain Nigeria’s support, as well as that of the WCO, for terminating contracts with inspection companies in order to regain ownership of core Customs functions.
On the second day, the Secretary General had a meeting with senior Customs management at NCS Headquarters. He visited the centre where the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) system is used to make rulings on the classification, valuation and origin of goods. The new PAAR system is automated and operated by young Customs officers assisted by experienced officers.
He then met the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Olutoyin Aganga, who acknowledged the contribution of Customs to facilitating trade. Having played an important role in the World Trade Organization’s Ministerial Conference in Bali, the Minister stressed the importance of a close working relationships between Customs and the Trade Ministry to jointly create a pro-business environment which balanced the needs of revenue collection and the facilitation of compliant trade.
The Secretary General also paid a courtesy visit to the President of the Republic, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan who was accompanied by the Minister of Finance, Ms. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Viola Onwuliri, and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adokie.
As a former Customs official early in his career, the President talked fondly of his visit to the WCO to attend the 2012 Council Sessions and particularly noted the WCO's strong and inspirational leadership. He also acknowledged the economic and social contribution of Customs to the nation, and promised to continue to support Customs reform in Nigeria and provide guidance and influence at the regional level.