The directors-general of Customs service of the fifteen member countries of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, have met in Abuja, Nigeria on the 1st of November 2018 in the quest to consolidate the ECOWAS Customs Union.
The heads of Customs are also deliberating on information exchange and cooperation between Customs administrations as a concerted response to the obstacles to the free movement of goods, security challenges and resurgence of illicit trafficking.
Declaring the meeting open, Tei Konzi, the ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Trade, Customs, and Free Movement, affirmed that the coming together of senior officials is in line with the current desire of the President of the Commission to strengthen the economic integration process of ECOWAS.
Noting that the Customs service constitutes a critical central link in this regard, Konzi recalled that since the last meeting in 2017, the ECOWAS Commission “has worked tirelessly to strengthen the regional Customs Union.”
He stressed that the efforts of the Commission are translated with the assistance of the experts of the member states who examined the draft Community texts on the reinforcement of the Free Trade Area, FTA, the application of the Common External Tariff, CET, harmonisation of customs procedures, cooperation as well as the establishment of the Tax Transition and Tax Harmonisation Programmes.
He further disclosed that the Commission has also made good progress on the construction of a regional automated transit system based on the interconnection of national customs Information Technology systems.
He solicited for the necessary support (by the Directors-General) of the ECOWAS Commission’s efforts to consolidate the Customs Union so that all the elements contributing to its smooth realization “are quickly and effectively implemented”.
Of particular importance to be taken into account, by the Commissioner’s estimation, is the new role of the Customs Administration in the current security context. He said in this regard: “There is today an expansion of customs missions with emerging missions such as the fight against trafficking, the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism”
In her keynote address, Hameed Ali, a retired colonel and the comptroller-general of the Nigerian Customs Service, noted that for continuous progress in the fight against transnational crime there is a need to deepen and intensify information exchange cooperation.
Represented by Ronke Olubiyi, the deputy comptroller-general of the Nigerian Customs Service, the Customs boss said this is in consonance with the World Customs Administration publication in 2004 which urges all Customs administrators to collaborate with each other to share sensitive information about enforcement through Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement, CMAAs.
Lamenting that the security challenges of the region have severely affected trade facilitation, he explained that the realisation that no nation can go it alone informed the setting up of intelligence data base among the participating Customs administrations of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and soon to join-Burkina Faso.
Toumany Sangare, a brigadier-general and the vice president of the WCO, OMD and AOC region, and director-general of Customs of the Republic of Guinea urged participants to harmonise, as far as possible and necessary the vision of technical issues of the ECOWAS region with that of the African Union “in order to facilitate for our region the continental economic integration that seems more and more inevitable.”
– Nov. 2, 2018 @ 15:36 GMT |