The fight against duty evasion in Nigeria has received a renewed attention. It is in this light that the Nigerian Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) Amendment Bill has been signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The law provides stiffer punishments for economic crimes such as smuggling and duty evasion. The bill, which had never been amended for over 64 years, aims to act as a deterrent to offenders and encourage more revenue through fine payment.
The new law includes severe penalties for offenders, such as a N5 million fine for ship masters who fail to provide necessary documents or refuse to answer questions, and a N1.5 million fine for those who fail to adhere to Customs regulations regarding the inspection of goods.
Offences such as false claims of import or export drawback could result in a fine of N5 million or five years imprisonment or both, while importers or their agents found guilty of concealment or wrong entry of goods could face a jail term of three years or a fine of six times the true value of revenue lost and forfeiture of the smuggled items.
Duty Evasion in Nigeria: Implications
Importers and exporters of stolen vehicles, aircraft, or ships could face a prison sentence of two years or a fine of N2 million or both, and those who construct or finance the construction of a route, tunnel or passageway that crosses the international border between Nigeria and another country could be fined N20 million or face 20 years imprisonment or both. Furthermore, anyone who obstructs the arrest of an offender by customs officers could be liable for five years imprisonment or a N5 million fine or both.
While the new law aims to combat economic crimes such as smuggling and duty evasion, economists have advised the government to create a more enabling and seamless trade environment in the country through the reduction of high tariffs imposed by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
According to Dr. Muda Yusuf, the CEO of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), when government maintains high tariffs on products not produced in the country, smuggling cannot be stopped, as it is often done in connivance with officials at the borders and ports.
In conclusion, while the new penalties contained in the CEMA Amendment Act may act as a deterrent to smugglers and duty evaders, it is important for the government to also address the issue of high tariffs and create an enabling trade environment in order to reduce the incentives for smuggling and promote legitimate trade activities.
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Olatunji Abdulrazaq CNA,ACTI