…As operators, stakeholders lament lull in port business
By Godfrey Bivbere
Controversy is currently trailing the recent announcement of the collection of about N1.1 trillion by the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, as operators and stakeholders raise questions on the integrity of the duty collections.
Shipping companies, terminal operators, Customs brokers, truckers and other stakeholders are all complaining about the lull in business and the sharp reduction in both import and export, wondering how the NCS got its huge revenue from.
The amount which was for 11 months in 2018, indicates that NCS has surpassed the full year collection before year end.
Speaking with Vanguard Maritime Report on the issue, immediate past National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Olayiwola Shittu, noted that the annual target is wrong as it has led to officers of the Service to do whatever it takes to collect revenue even at the detriment of the economy.
Shittu noted that the volume of cargo import has gone down and asked where the Customs got the revenue it said it collected this year.
Similarly, Chairman of Shippers Association of Lagos State, SAL, Jonathan Nicol, told Vanguard Maritime Report, that the Federal Government’s 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 engage all manners of measures, 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, importers are subjected to all manner charges, both legal and illegal, thereby frustrating them.
The League of Maritime Editors, in a press statement made available to Vanguard Maritime Report, had earlier 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 Nigerian Customs 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, Hadiza Bala Usman that the NCS has refused to comply with the Ease of Doing Business policy in cargo delivery process.
Executive Vice Chairman of ENL Consortium, Vicky Haastrup, at a lunch date with Senate Committee on Marine Transport in Lagos last week, complained about the drastic reduction in the number of vessels handled by her terminal.
Hasstrup disclosed that her terminal, in the past, was handling about 17 vessels daily but that the number has since reduced to three.
She blamed it on the traffic gridlock at the port access road which makes movement of cargo in and out of the port difficult.
Also speaking on the problem of the traffic gridlock, Managing Director of Josepdam Port Services Nigeria Limited, Simon Travers, told Vanguard Maritime Report that his terminal recently turned back ships wanting a space to berth at his facility.
Travers attributed this to the traffic congestion which makes it difficult for cargoes already discharged to be evacuated from terminal A of the Tin-Can Island port.
Recall that the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS last week said it has collected N1.1 trillion revenue as well as impounding contraband goods worth more than N40 billion between January and November 2018.
The National Public Relations Officer of the Service, Joseph Attah, who disclosed this in Abuja, noted that the amount realised actually surpassed the N1.03 trillion collected in 2017.
According to him, the strategic deployment of officers and men of the service and establishment of strike force as the third layers of security, have impacted positively on customs operations.
He stated: “With these achievements, we must have stepped on toes, and that is why some enemies go to town with misleading information by accusing the service of nepotism, non-facilitation of trade and corruption.
“It is curious that such people will choose the time when officers are turning down bribes like the case in Apapa.
“Our officers rejected N150 million bribe offered by arrested suspect, to save the nation from consuming 40 containers of dangerous drugs.
“Customs, under the current Comptroller General, Col Hameed Ali (rtd), cannot be cowed into relaxing its hard stands on enemies of the state.
“We will insist that all international trade actors comply with the fiscal policy of government”.
The spokesperson said that the Service, charged with the responsibilities of implementing fiscal policy of the government, would not allow blackmail to deter it.