Washington- Nigeria and the U.S. on Tuesday signed a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA) aimed at providing a legal framework for information sharing and cooperation between the customs administrations of the two countries.
The Comptroller-General of Customs, Mr Abdullahi Dikko signed on behalf of Nigeria while the Deputy Commissioner
for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) body, Mr Thomas Winkowski signed for the U.S.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the agreement would enable the Nigeria Customs Service, U.S. CBP
and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) organisations to prevent, repress and investigate customs offences.
The agreement would also provide for mutual assistance to ensure the accurate assessment of customs duties and taxes, in the effort to combat illicit cross-border activities including contraband smuggling, financial crimes such as customs fraud and money laundering, as well as international terrorism.
Speaking at the event, the Comptroller-General of Customs noted that the process for the implementation of the agreement would last for two years.
According to him, the CMAA will contribute immensely to the training and retraining of officers and men of the
Customs Service in the country and bring a reprieve to rigorous checking Nigerian face while travelling.
``If we establish a solid relationship now, the U.S. will understand that we are doing our job over there and that we
keeping to standards practise which we have taken away from here, So most of the Nigerian passengers coming into
the U.S. will have a big relief at checking points at the airport,’’ Dikko stressed.
The CG also disclosed that the Service had developed a portal otherwise known as `` trade-hub’’ that would make importation and clearing goods into the country less cumbersome for importers.
According to him, the portal is a creation of young and newly employed information technology graduates designed
to ensure effective operation of the service through the use of information technology in providing the necessary information for importation goods.
``Even persons who do not know much about importation or how the Nigeria system operates in terms of clearing procedure, the portal can lead you up to the point of bringing the cargo to Nigeria.
``Immediately you open the portal if you are a new person, you will see where it concerns you and this means that if you are bringing in an item, and you do not know its classification, all you have to do is to put the name of the item into the portal and the computer will automatically bring out the classification.
``But first of all it will ask you, what type item you are importing and after you must have said what exactly you want to import, it will give the classification and the duty,’’ he explained.
Also speaking Winkowski noted that Customs authorities around the globe are on the frontline, securing nations and communities against the threat of terrorism and transnational crime while facilitating legitimate commerce.
``This agreement strengthens our nations’ resilience against threats by expanding cooperation and information sharing.
``This agreement will enable our customs authorities to expand efforts to protect our borders through the timely and secured exchange of information,’’ Winkowski said.
He, however, said that the U.S. was looking forward to future opportunities for collaborative enforcement efforts with the Nigeria Customs Service.