By Godfrey Bivbere
The Nigeria Customs Service, NCS has been accused for stalling the “Ease of Doing Business” at the nation’s seaports, a directive of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo, aimed at enhancing businesses and encouraging investments in the country.
Some stakeholders who spoke with Vanguard Maritime Report noted that the Service, through multiple checks, within and outside the ports, duplicates its functions making clearing processes cumbersome.
They noted that despite the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report, PAAR, introduced by the Service to ease the clearing process, it has since been abandoned as officers now require value issued through the PAAR.
Chairman of Shippers Association of Lagos State, SAL, Jonathan Nicol, told Vanguard Maritime Report, that the Federal Government annual target given to Customs is a big factor to the attitude of officers and men of the Service.
Nicol stressed that in their bid to meet government target, the officers do whatever is expedient including the multiple checks that had become a big problem for cargo clearing processes in the country.
He further noted that in their quest to meet the target, his members are subjected to all manners of charges both legal and illegal, thereby frustrating them.
Similarly, the League of Maritime Editors in a press statement made available to Vanguard Maritime Report, noted that though the Service is supposed to be facilitating trade as enunciated in the World Customs Organization, WCO, policy for Customs Administration globally, the Service has failed to deliver this value at the seaports with its adverse effect on Ease of Doing Business policy of the Federal Government.
The League in the statement signed by its President, Kingsley Anaroke, noted “It is on record as recently corroborated by the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA), Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman, that the NCS has refused to comply with the Ease of Doing Business policy in cargo delivery process.
“Investigations have equally shown that Customs authorities still allow prohibited export items such as thick wood and scrap metals for export in Apapa,Tin Can and Onne ports.
“Findings have also revealed that despite the Federal Government’s claims that it has stopped importation of foreign rice into the country, the commodity still floods the local markets with importations through the seaports, no longer land borders. They are declared as fishing nets, mosquito nets and building materials and are cleared unhindered at the seaports.
“Have Nigerians asked why there seem to an increase in importation of arms into the country in recent times? All sensitive positions in customs currently are manned by a section of the country, thereby raising the fear of gross incompetence or compromise at seaports, land borders and FOUs.
“It was gathered that the issue of closure of warehouses in the Lagos industrial areas of Ilupeju, Ijora, Amuwo-Odofin, Iganmu, among others, that drew the attention of Alhaji Ahmed Tinubu, the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress(APC), who called on the attention of President Buhari was also as a result of the extortionist tendencies of the Customs officers,” the League stated.