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NEPZA Opposes Customs Service Bill

The Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority has opposed some sections of the proposed Custom Service reform bill.

In a submission to the ongoing public hearing on the Custom reform bill at the Nigeria’s House of Representatives, NEPZA cited three reasons why the amendment to give the Customs Service powers to make regulations in Free Zones will weaken Nigeria’s Special Economic Zones.

The Authority stated that the proposed sections of the bill which seek to make the Free Zones Customs- Controlled Zones invariably seek to create an arrangement that is alien to the global free trade zone model used around the world.

NEPZA added that it had through the operations of the free zones contributed tremendously to the national economy.

It noted that the Lekki Free Zone Quadrant that comprised Lekki Free Trade Zone, Lagos Free Zone, Dangote Free Zone Enterprises and the Alaro City Free Zone as well as the Calabar Free Zone and the Kano Free Zone were facts on how it continued to fast track the country’s industrialisation.

It said, “Free Zones are areas designated as such by the President to serve as one-stop-shop investment hub wherein incentives are provided in form of tax holidays, simplified Customs and Immigration processes, amongst others, with a view to attracting investors.

“The One-Stop-Shop concept, in furtherance of which Regulations were made for all the active Free Zones with the involvement of the Nigerian Customs Service and all relevant stakeholders, would be eroded if the provisions of the bill are allowed.

“By providing regulations for the free zones, the Nigeria Customs Service would be setting a dangerous precedent, as other agencies would want to do same.”

The Authority in its response also held that the development if not nipped in the board, would result in multiple regulations that might be contradictory.

This, it noted, would create avoidable legal tussles or make registration of enterprises unnecessarily cumbersome and unattractive.

It added, “Dangote Free Zone, a national asset is a zone with enormous prospects for Nigerian economy. With the heightened insecurity in Nigeria amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic, the introduction of a new bureaucratic bottlenecks such as this proposed legal framework would only scare away investors and retard the free trade zone scheme.

“Bureaucratic bottlenecks have been identified as one of the reasons for Nigeria’s low ranking on the World Trade Organisation’s index of Ease of Doing Business.

“The Free Zone scheme, therefore, seeks to tackle the problem of corporate investments characterized by bureaucratic challenges, multiple taxation, conflicting regulations.”

The Authority urged the National Assembly to be circumspect by avoiding the temptation of allowing any legal framework that would cripple NEPZA and the Free Zone scheme.

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