THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR COMBATING THE CRIME OF SMUGGLING UNDER THE NIGERIAN CUSTOMS AND EXCISE MANAGEMENT ACT
Smuggling involves the illegal importation or exportation of goods either to evade the correct payment of duty or to undermine government policy on existing prohibition regulations. The major effects of smuggling include huge revenue loss, money laundering, exposure of local industries to unfair competition with their foreign counterparts and insecurity of life and property. The principal legislation for combating smuggling in Nigeria is the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) and the Nigeria Customs Service Board has the duty of controlling and managing the administration of CEMA. The main features of CEMA are the overlapping of offences, use of presumptions, the reversal of the burden of proof, forfeiture of goods and their means of conveyance, compounding of offences, the intriguing prescription of capital punishment for certain categories of smugglers and the limitation of time for the prosecution of offences under the Act. However, the provisions of CEMA, which was enacted since 1958, are largely outdated in terms of concept and punishment and are therefore, inadequate to cope with the sophistication of the new trend of smuggling in Nigeria. Unfortunately, an earlier CEMA Reforms Bill before the National Assembly merely seeks to subject the exercise of Presidential and Ministerial powers, over imports and exports to the approval of the National Assembly. Already the CEMA Reforms Bill now before the National Assembly seeks among others to grant autonomous status to Nigeria Customs Service, prohibits mandatory pre-shipment and post-shipment inspection and to prescribe tougher penalties and sanctions. The Reforms Bill also seeks to encourage the use of consultants and enhance better use of Information Technology. This thesis attempts to highlight the purport and application of CEMA in the light of constitutional developments and thereby expose the inadequacy of the current legislation. The thesis also takes a look at the factors that promote smuggling, examines the control measures and makes a case for a far-reaching appropriate legislative review that would enhance the fight against smuggling in its entire ramifications. The thesis is a product of literature review, comparative analysis of relevant judicial decisions and statutory provisions together with our experience on the job in this area of law.
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