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Customs’ ‘naked’ policy for Nigerians

‘I feel that the Customs is pursuing ethnic agenda than pretending to be protecting the health of the nation’

By Valentine Amanze

(23-06-2023)

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), an independent customs service under the supervisory oversight of the Nigerian Ministry of Finance, responsible for the collection of customs revenue, facilitation of both national and international trade and anti-smuggling activities, has never impressed me before.

If it is not fighting other government agencies like the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) at the nation’s ports, it is intimidating the down-trodden – petty traders.

Infact, the NCS has become notorious for its anti-people policies in the guise of raising revenue for the federal government.

It’s latest ban on the sale of imported used clothes and shoes otherwise known as Okirika materislscalls for questioning whether policies are made to favour only the rich in Nigeria.

Okirika clothes are the cheapest the poor Nigerians can afford now, with all the unfavourable government’s economic policies.

Nigerians cannot be forced into returning to the pre-historic age, when human being were in the state of nature – moving around naked (nude).

On June 8, 2023, the acting comptroller of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Hussein Ejibunu, had declared: “The first and major reason Customs seizes used clothes is because it is banned under Absolute Prohibition List of Schedule 4 of the Customs Excise and Management Act (CEMA).

Also read: Customs seizes N468m contraband

Okirika clothes are injurious to the health of the nation. That is why government banned them.

“One should be curious. Nobody knows how and who used these clothes. And most importantly smugglers desirous to turn Nigeria into a dumping ground. We should not accept it.

“We are a country well blessed with human and natural resources. Why will someone go and bring used products?

“The Federal Government, in its drive to boost local production of fabrics and clothing, banned importation of used clothing.

“The government wants the local textile industry to enjoy protection and create more jobs for Nigerians from the cotton farms through the textile and garment factories.”

How could the Customs official justify the anti-people policies in a country of 200 million, 85 percent of which languish below poverty level, with N30,000 minimum wage.

With N30, 000, no Nigerian can buy a brand new shirt, eat a quality meal, take a cab with the current exchange of N780 per one U.S. dollar. He has not even paid house rent and school fees.

What about the pump price of N500 per litre of petrol caused by the government’s sudden removal of fuel subsidy, with its consequences on the common man? It is only a wicked government that adds more burden on the sorrowful citizens without cushioning the effects with palliatives.

In more developed clime like Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, second-hand clothes and other businesses exist side by side. It is a matter of choice and preference.

In a country with free market economy, coupled with being signatory to multi-national trade ties, banning second-hand clothes means sabotaging pacts signed with others on a common goal.

NSC’s excuses with textile industry are watery and unacceptable.

How many textile industries are functional in Nigeria today?

Banning Okirika materials will not revive the nation’s textile industry.

The government killed the once vibrating industry with poor infrastructure.

Inadequate and erratic power supply, bad roads, over taxation and non-patronage by the government killed textile industries in Kaduna, Aswan in Lagos, and Aba.

Think about revitalizing the textile industries and creating jobs in Nigeria instead of going after petty traders hawking N200 bra and pants.

If you care for the health of Nigerians, build more hospitals and employ doctors and nurses who would not be owed salaries and allowances.

It is very worrinsome that the Customs is trying to dump more loads of hardship on poor Nigerians by denying them access to affordable clothes (Okirika).

Why is it that the Nigerian Customs Service is hard-press on having its ways.

Second-hand clothe is a terminology in the business which generalizes the fairly used imported goods.

Most of the imported ones had not been used by anybody. Such are classified as “first grade” or old stocks that could not be accommodated in their warehouses and therefore shipped abroad to create space for the latest stocks. Some are also deemed outfassioned in their countries of origin.

If the motive for the ban is not to punish a section of the country out of the business, one wonders why the new government increased their own salaries by 114 percent.

If it is a constitutional issue, let our lawmakers make laws that will protect the petty traders or amend laws to protect them considering the current economic realities.

I feel that the Customs is pursuing ethnic agenda than pretending to be protecting the health of the nation.

valoa2000@yahoo.com

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