· Points out massive job losses
· Argues merger should be for agencies not doing well
The League of Maritime Editors (LOME) on has advised the administration of President Ahmed Bola Tinubu against the proposal to merge the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) as one single agency to be known as the Nigerian Revenue Service (NRS).
By Ovie Edomi
The League of Maritime Editors, an assemblage of very senior Journalists whose individual practice spans over three decades described such proposal as ill-conceived and misleading to the administration of Tinubu as such the proposal should not be allowed to see the light of the day.
Describing the proposal as anti-people, the association added that those behind the idea failed to consider the obvious dire consequences associated with merger which include mass sack of employees in all the agencies involved.
In a statement signed by the President of the League, Chief Timothy Okorocha, Secretary, Mr Felix Kumuyi and the Public Relations Officer, Mr Francis Ugwoke, the League argued that the Customs Service and NIMASA have different statutory roles to play as established by laws setting them up.
The statement pointed out that Customs is specifically for trade facilitation at different seaports, airports and border stations from where it collects duties on goods entering the country or being exported.
According to the statement, the only statutory obligation being performed by the Customs which is close to that of the FIRS is excise duty collection as tax, adding that this should not been be seen as enough to call for merger.
In the case of NIMASA, the statement said the agency was set up to regulate the maritime sector in terms of ships coming from different destinations and those operating locally and using her territorial waters.
Beyond this role, the statement said, NIMASA is known for “indigenous shipping development, maritime safety administration; maritime labour regulation; marine pollution prevention and control; search and rescue; provision of direction and ensuring compliance with vessels security measures; air and coastal surveillance; Cabotage enforcement; ship registration; training and certification of seafarers and marine capacity development”.
According to League, there is no role in what NIMASA carries out that is so closely related with FIRS and Customs to call for the merger of the three agencies.
Perhaps, the only area connecting them is the collection of the three percent levy from vessels calling at the nation’s ports to be able to carry out administrative purposes and promote indigenous shipping development.
Besides, both NIMASA and Customs are key contributors to the consolidated revenue fund just like FIRS, the statement said.
Customs like FIRS which recorded N10.1trillion last year had also recorded N2.7 trillion in 2022 while withholding only 5 percent allowed by law to carry out its statutory functions.
NIMASA had also contributed the sum of N37.69 billion to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) in 2021, N31.83bn in 2020 and has been doing so over the years.
The statement added, “the present administration should not consider introducing any policy that will inflict pains on already traumatized Nigerians considering that many thousands of youths graduate every year without hope of where to gain employment. Merging these three agencies will lead to more sack and reduction in employment opportunities for Nigerian youths in these agencies. Government should look for other ways of checking capital expenditure in these agencies and save money but certainly not to merge them.
“Right now, Customs has a staff strength of about 16,000 personnel, FIRS has about 12,000 workers while NIMASA has about 2,000 workers and should government merge the agencies, the strength of the agencies to be known as ‘Nigerian Revenue Service’ (NRS) will go down by more than half. It will be survival of the fittest. Only those who are connected to the Presidency, governors, senators and high level monarchs will remain. This is not good for the economy. It will not even be good for the image of the administration”.
The League advised that merger should be for agencies not doing well and not five-star agencies.