By Ndubuisi Francis

 


The Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) Monday disclosed that the first quarter target previously for the implementation of the new revenue formula no longer stands, adducing political and other snags for the development.

Elias-Mbam

RMAFC Chairman, Mr.Elias Mbam

RMAFC Chairman, Mr.Elias Mbam, who was responding to questions from the media when he hosted the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Abdullahi Inde Dikko, on a courtesy visit to his office in Abuja, stated that recent political developments had given rise to a fresh dimension to the revenue sharing debate, which called for the Commission exercising restraint before taking a final decision on the proposed formula.

Piqued by the development, he noted that the Commission was seriously concerned with the politicisation of the exercise over the past few months, adding that the development was worrisome in view of the negative implications for the socio-economic development of the various tiers of governments.

“It is true that I promised that by the end of first quarter of 2012 we should have a new revenue formula ready for presentation to Mr. President. It is also true that I said all things being equal and I was very emphatic. Unfortunately, you know very well that we have had a number of challenges, including national challenges. Even the budget year was moved from December to March and so many other challenges which you know as much as I do.

“So, I am saying that at the end of the first quarter I will brief you on the progress so far. It may be difficult to assure you now that it will be ready in a week’s time. But I can assure you that I will brief you on progress so far made,” he said.

We have really made reasonable progress. We don’t want to start by shouting. There has been a lot of job behind the scene. But this issue is very sensitive. The issue has a lot of implications in the unity and peace of this country.

“We are conscious of that and we are very careful in all our actions and inactions. So, we don’t also want to be joined in the politics of the review exercise. We want retain our image as an unbiased umpire and we will be fair and devoid of any political consideration in terms of politics of any section of the country. We keep to that and we will not be dragged into the politicisation of the review of the revenue allocation formula,” the RMAFC Chairman assured.

Mbam, however, assured of RMAFC’s commitment to ensure that when the new formula is finally presented to the President, it would be just, fair and in the overall national interest.  The Commission had last year assured that the proposed new revenue sharing formula would be ready for implementation by the end of the Q1 2012.

Meanwhile,  Dikko has stated that the destination inspection which adopted by the country for clearance of goods over the years lacked legal backing
He, therefore, urged the authorities to facilitate the timely passage of the Nigeria Customs Bill now before the National Assembly in order to address the operational gap in the Nigerian maritime industry.

Dikko explained that it had become imperative for the country to align its ports operations with global best practice with current developments by amending obsolete provisions of the old Customs Act as a strategic option of fully empowering the Service to discharge its duties more professionally.

According to him, since he assumed the headship of the NCS, remarkable steps had been taken by the management to reposition the service for improved efficiency, pointing out however that the passage of the Bill would create the needed legalbacking  for the agency and empower it to more proactively to emerging developments  as they affect Nigeria’s ports operations.

He described the current proposals in the Bill, which set N200 as penalty for a breach of importation rules as a step that could further undermine the efforts of the NCS to generate more revenue from customs sources, to the Federation Account and solicited the support of the Commission for stiffer penalties against importers or exporters that violate any of provisions of the Customs Act.

“Today with the efforts of the able management of the Nigeria Customs Service we adopted a fully automated system which plugs many of the revenue leakages and raised revenue collection to between N70 to N80 billion a month now. But I want to inform the Commission that we need their support. The support we need from the Commission is political.

“There are basically some decisions which the Nigeria Customs takes not because we are in uniform but because they are in the overall interest of the country. Now, we are into the review of our legal framework. Now the Bill is also becoming a very big obstacle in our revenue collection. One, the penalty is too meagre. The highest if an infringement is made is N200. Till today, we are now into an automated system which is not backed by the law and I want to tell the Chairman that even the Destination Inspection we are operating now is not backed by law. So, actually the Bill has to supported and the old provisions repealed by the National Assembly,” Dikko said.

Mbam, assured the NCS of the Commission’s continued support for its various initiatives targeted at enhancing its efficiency and improved revenue for the country.Mbam, who also spoke against the lean penalty proposed in the Bill for offenders, said the Commission will collaborate with the National Assembly to ensure that any provision that would undermine the efforts of the Service in improving the revenue generation into the Federation Account is expunged before the Bill is passed into law.

 

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