The Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) have set up a technical committee to harmonise their operations at Free Trade Zones across the country.
The committee was set up yesterday in Abuja by the two agencies to address concerns raised by the NEPZA in relation to the operations of customs officers in licensed free trade zones.
Speaking during a visit to the customs headquarters, the Director General of NEPZA, Barrister Emmanuel Jime, said customs officers lacked knowledge on the operations of the free zones and called for inclusion of free trade zones in the curriculum for their training.
Jime said customs officers deal directly with investors in the free zones instead of going through the NEPZA, which is the agency responsible for investment facilitation into licensed free zones in the country.
The NEPZA boss further told the customs management that in addition to frequent redeployments of customs officers posted to the free trade zones, the officers did not have sufficient powers to take instant decisions, a development that hurt ease of doing business in the zones.
Responding, the Comptroller General of Customs, retired Colonel Hameed Ibrahim Ali, said customs officers in Nigeria are usually caught in-between its mandates for trade facilitation as well as ensuring security and the wellbeing of Nigerians.
Ali said if customs officers concentrated only on trade facilitation, illicit products may be imported into the country, including drugs and weapons.