MONROVIA – The Customs Department of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) has signed an MOU with its Guinean and Sierra Leonean counterparts for mutual administrative assistance to combat customs crimes and boost customs revenues in the three countries.
The Customs authorities agreed to foster meaningful and more robust collaborations in facilitating cross-border trade and improved security to attract domestic resource mobilization in the three Mano River Union (MRU) countries.
The customs administrations signed the resolution over the weekend in the Guinean Capital, Conakry, at the close of their first tripartite meeting. Customs Commissioner Saa Saamoi signed the resolution for Liberia, while Sierra Leonean Customs Chief Abu Martin Kanneh and Guinea’s Director General of Customs Brigadier General Moussa Camara signed for their respective countries.
The MOU contains a chain of immediate actions that seek to strengthen cohesion, solidarity, and cooperation in countering Customs frauds that are detrimental to the economic, commercial, fiscal, social, cultural, or security interests of the three countries.
The customs authorities resolved to strengthen cooperation among border officers, improve intelligence sharing, and called on their respective governments to rehabilitate roads and bridges to enhance trade facilitation and boost revenue collection.
The MRU Countries Customs Chiefs, in separate closing statements, underscored the need for mutual administrative assistance among them as a workable way of addressing revenue frauds, facilitating cross-border trades, and engendering regional security.
The need for customs collaboration among our three countries is imperative…in fighting security threats and revenue frauds,” Liberia’s Customs Commissioner Saa Saamoi insisted during the two-day meeting. Saamoi stressed, “Our borders are extremely porous, and it takes only collaboration among our countries and ports to put revenue fraud under control.”
Commissioner Saamoi told the gathering that every customs transaction at any of the borders in the three countries “should be as transparent as much as possible,” both for the businesses and revenue, adding that “the more transparent we are as customs officers, the more we facilitate trade” across the region.
Guinea’s Customs Director General Camara added that cross-border criminality has increased in recent years and that the three countries needed to collaborate – with each playing its role – in arresting cross-border crimes in a region with multiple porous borders. He said the collaboration would help fight trade based money laundering and unwholesome cross-border crimes and trades.
The MOU, he said, contains recommendations and challenges which solutions that will require the interventions of state authorities. “We will take note of the challenges and find a way to solve them…we will take these matters to the political authorities,” Camara said.
In his closing statement, Sierra Leonean Customs Chief Abu Martin Kanneh noted that “The only way we can succeed in fighting cross border crime and illicit trade is to collaborate,”Kanneh described the MOU as the beginning of a new era in the MRU region for customs administrations. He said they would work to help each other in terms of intelligence in tracking down customs-related crimes and protecting revenues.
Saamoi led an expert-based Liberian delegation, including Assistant Commissioner for Compliance and Enforcement Atty. D. Blamo Kofa; Manager for Anti-Smuggling and Investigations Unit (ASIU) Masu Fahnbulleh; Manager for Customs Collections and Enforcement Robert Pyne; Manager for Customs Risk Management and Intelligence Abraham F. Siafa, ASIU Supervisor Abel Sneh, among others.
The Liberia experts joined their counterparts in technical discussions, including producing, presenting, interpreting, and clarifying the 14-chapter, 27-section MOU.
The attendees believe that implementing the MOU can address the problems associated with commercial exchanges, transit operations, the fight against cross-border frauds and crimes, and the interconnectivity of automated systems among the three countries.