Archives For Modernisation

Secretary General Mikuriya during a courtesy visit paid to the President of the Republic of Nigeria, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan (WCO)

Secretary General Mikuriya during a courtesy visit paid to the President of the Republic of Nigeria, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan (WCO)

At the invitation of the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Mr. Abdullahi Dikko Inde, the WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya visited Nigeria on 17 and 18 February 2014 to observe Customs transformation activities after the termination of Destination Inspection contracts on 1 December 2013.

In Lagos, the Secretary General went to Apapa Port, Nigeria’s major port, to see Customs operations and also to visit the Customs Training Centre for a mentorship talk with young officers: the NCS has recruited many recent university graduates and trained them in computer and other necessary skills.

Secretary General Mikuriya also presided over a Stakeholder Forum to interact with the private sector. The business community were supportive of the ongoing Customs transformation programme that was enhanced by an improved communication strategy for Customs, the use of information technology – the Nigeria Trade Hub – and the implementation of modern Customs methods, such as risk management.

The private sector also suggested better use of a database for risk management purposes, including valuation, and expressed their hope for the introduction of coordinated border management and a Single Window to simplify the multiplicity of regulations and inspections at borders.

The Secretary General also travelled to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, and was joined by three heads of Customs from neighbouring countries, namely Benin, Ghana and Niger, who wanted to learn from NCS’s experience and obtain Nigeria’s support, as well as that of the WCO, for terminating contracts with inspection companies in order to regain ownership of core Customs functions.

The Secretary General also paid a courtesy visit to the President of the Republic, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan.  As a former Customs official early in his career, the President talked fondly of his visit to the WCO to attend the 2012 Council Sessions and particularly noted the WCO’s strong and inspirational leadership. He also acknowledged the economic and social contribution of Customs to the nation, and promised to continue to support Customs reform in Nigeria and provide guidance and influence at the regional level. Source: WCO

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Reality Check

The ongoing global financial and economic crisis affects governments,  organisations and citizens in different ways. It would seem that no individual or any organisation has the proverbial ‘silver bullet’ to normalise the situation either. Today, probably most Customs and Border agencies are undergoing ‘modernisation’ or some form of restructuring. Modernisation in itself implies automation or digitization of information changing the lives of the average customs (border) official as well as the expectations and predictability of service to traders and trade intermediaries around the world. 9/11 forever changed the role of Customs and for most of governments, border regulatory authorities as well. Changes in Customs have since been focussed on alignment to policy, standards and guidelines as advocated by the WCO.

WCO Startegic PlanNational adoption of these remains the foremost critical step in establishing a country’s ability to ‘connect’ with the world. A national administration should seek inclusivity of its trading community lest its modernisation be regarded as self-serving. Simultaneously, regional economic communities also seek radical change, albeit on a regionalisation level. Pressures on national (sovereign) nations develop given high-level political commitment to regionalisation, often without taking into account their respective countries’ state of readiness. This creates a false sense of commitment which results in regional failures. Behind such regional initiatives are normally a host of sponsors, purportedly with the right experts and solutions to rectify the ‘barriers’ which prevent a national state from integrating with its neighbours and global partners. Sound familiar? If so, it wouldn’t do national representatives any harm to refresh themselves with the under mentioned WCO tools and validate this in relation to the direction which their organisation is headed. These form part of the WCO’s Customs’ in the 21st Century Agenda. It is also recommended reading for the various regional economic communities (RECs) – here I refer to the African continent – who are not always au fait or fully appraised on the ‘readiness’ landscape of the member states they represent.

The Economic Competitiveness Package (ECP) (Click the hyperlink for more information) is currently a matter of high priority at the World Customs Organization (WCO). Economic competitiveness starts with trade facilitation and Customs administrations undeniably play an important role in this respect. Indeed, facilitating trade is one of the WCO’s key objectives and the Organization has contributed, through its tools and instruments as well as through technical assistance, to increasing the economic competitiveness and growth of Members.

The Revenue Package (RP) (Click the hyperlink for more information) was developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO) in response to WCO Members’ concerns in regard to falling revenue returns in the light of the global financial crisis and declining duty rates.

Significant progress has been made since the adoption of the WCO Capacity Building Strategy in 2003. However, new and emerging key strategic drivers impact on international trade and the roles and responsibilities of Customs administrations. This requires that all our capacity building efforts remain responsive and needs-driven to ensure beneficiary Customs administrations can obtain the support they need to pursue their reform and modernization. This Organisational Development Package (ODP) (Click the hyperlink for more information) outlines the basic approach of the WCO towards organizational development. It provides a simple and accessible overview of the texts, tools and instruments that relate to this topic. It refers and offers access to these resources but does not purport to capture all knowledge and practices within this extensive area.

The Compliance and Enforcement Package (CEP) (Click the hyperlink for more information) has been developed in order to assist Members to address the high-risk areas for Customs enforcement. The Customs in the 21st Century Strategy calls on Customs administrations to implement modern working methods and techniques. In this context, Customs should be equipped with the necessary tools that allow it to effectively manage supply chain risks and enforce laws and regulations in cases of non-compliance. In discharging this mandate, the WCO, in close co-operation with Members, has created an extensive library of instruments, tools, guidance materials and operational co-ordination activities to support Customs compliance and enforcement actions. These tools new form part of the CEP.