Customs, PAAR and its ignorant critics

on   /   in Viewpoint 10:04 pm   /   Comments

By OKEY IBEKE

DESPITE the general applause and commendation that has greeted the full takeover of destination inspection by the Nigeria Customs Service, it is amazing that there are pockets of sponsored critics who do not see anything good in the takeover. It is equally amazing that while the maritime industry and even the government is commending Customs for a smooth take off after taking over from destination inspection agents (Service Providers), those uninformed critics and pessimists are seeing confusion and problems where none exists.

To such a group belongs the Secretary of the Mr. Lucky Amiwero-led faction of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, NCMDLCA, Mr. Uchu Block.  This group or factional association has for long derived its relevance in the industry by creating confusion and making loud noise and going left when everyone is going right.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the Secretary of the discredited association would come out to say that the new Customs document, the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) was “dead on arrival” just five weeks after take off.  According to Vanguard of January 16, 2014, Mr. Uchu Block said that PAAR which was put in place to replace former Risk Assessment Report, RAR, has failed and even made a case for ex-service providers to continue.

One cannot begin to point out a whole lot of ignorance displayed by Mr. Block in that interview. But suffice it to ask how someone who has been in the industry as a clearing agent and claims to understand the goods clearance process can suggest that the Service Providers RAR (Risk Assessment Report) and Customs PAAR (Pre-Arrival Assessment Report) should run alongside ‘till all lapses are sorted out?”

Because of these sponsored comments and uninformed criticisms by people like Block, it has become necessary to compare the start of destination inspection by Service Providers in 2006 and the recent takeover by the Nigeria Customs Service.

It can be recalled that the take off of destination inspection in January 2006 was marked by confusion and chaos in the ports. As the scheme took off with the destination inspection agents (service providers) in charge, confusion and anarchy was let loose on the ports resulting to excruciating congestion and block stacking of containers. Consignments spent a minimum of 35 days before it could be cleared while vessels littered the Lagos waters because of berthing space. There was lamentation everywhere by importers, manufacturers and all the port users.

The situation at the ports on take off of destination inspection by service providers was amply captured by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN). As the problems and myriads of complaints continued, the manufacturers association organized a workshop in May 2006 to assess the implementation status of destination inspection. At the workshop, they articulated the woes at the ports then as follows:

Delay in clearing industrial raw materials, machineries, spare-parts, and other production inputs imported for local manufacturing.

Wrong and disputable classification of imported cargoes.

Delays in resolving queries between Cotecna (one of the service providers) and the banks.

Inability to clear imported cargoes within reasonable period resulting in the payment of fines, charges and huge demurrage.

Inadequate scanning machines and other port handling equipment.

Unlike the situation prevalent in the ports when the service providers kick-started the destination inspection scheme, the full takeover of the process on Sunday 1st December, 2013 by Customs was very smooth and work has been going on effectively without any disruption or dislocation of the process with its resultant confusion. This smooth takeover and improved efficiency in the clearing process could not have been achieved without adequate preparations by the Service before the take over.

With the full takeover of the scheme, Customs now became responsible for managing all areas of the inspection processes. These areas include: Processing of the electronic Form M, issuance of the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) to replace the Risk Assessment Report (RAR) formally issued by the Service Providers, control of scanning equipment and operations in all the scanning sites in Nigeria.

All these took off smoothly because adequate preparations had been made.

Prior to the take over, Customs deployed a robust risk management system organically developed by the Service in consultation with partner agencies.

As part of the preparation, a state of the art ruling centre was put in place for issuance of PAAR in Abuja. The ruling centre has the following features: world class data centre with disaster recovery plan, robust internet connectivity with backup and a dedicated power supply backed up with 2 units of 1000 KVA generators and 350 trained officers working round the clock in 3 shifts.

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