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Export smuggling drives down official volume by over 100%

•Govt agencies compromise rules — Experts
•We have made some seizures — Customs

By Godfrey Bivbere

OFFICIAL export volume from the ports in Lagos, especially Tin-Can Island port, has dropped by over100 per cent, a development attributed to export smuggling that is now gaining grounds.

•Thousands of motorcycles used for smuggling, seized by Ogun Customs Command

Vanguard Maritime Report authoritatively gathered that there has been a steady drop in the volume of exported goods through the Tin-Can Island port in the last three years.

A source close to Tin-Can Island Port told Vanguard Maritime Report that export from the port in 2017 and 2018 were 6,650 and 3,500 respectively.

But the volume, as of 2016, according to the source, stood at 8,420.

Director General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, Madu Yusuf, told Vanguard Maritime Report that the problem is the functioning of the institutions of the federal government at the ports.

Yusuf said if the institutions did what they were supposed to do without compromising, there was no reason why all exports should not be captured.

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In his words, “For other exports not being captured by our institutions, I think it is a function of the quality of our institutions because if they do what they should do without compromising there is no reason why those things should not be captured.

“Sometimes the exchange rate policy can hinder people from the proper declaration. Before we had the Importers/Exporters (I/E) window because if you bring in your export proceeds, you will be compared to exchange it at the rate far lower than the market rate.

“So many people are not declaring but now that we have the I/E window, a lot of people are now declaring their exports. If people are not declaring it must be that people around the borders, the seaport or the airport or wherever are compromising.

“It is when people compromise that others do not comply with the rules. The challenge is more with our institutions, especially the Customs, to do what they need to do.

Greater integrity

“It is like smuggling of goods out of the country; just like we are having the problem of smuggling goods into the country. I know it is an institutional problem that is why people can do whatever they like. So we must strengthen our institutions. They need to also demonstrate greater integrity in their work, then our trade policy must also be right,” he noted.

Also reacting to the above, an export expert and Chief Executive Officer of Multimix Group, Obiora Madu, said it is true that there are undocumented export going on at the ports.

Madu told Vanguard Maritime Report that smuggling is in two ways, import and export. He explained that while an importer needs Form M, an export needs the NSP Form, but they can carry out their trade without using these forms.

According to him, “It is possible; in fact, it is happening in the ports. Is log (wood) not prohibited? Go to the port and you will see log being exported.”

On the way forward, he said that the major problem is logistics infrastructure deficiency which is massive in the cost of doing business.

Madu noted that transportation of ginger from Katsina to Lagos takes so long and the exporter may end up losing his goods because the time for delivery would have expired. He pointed out that moving export goods from Oyingbo to the port takes two weeks which is a long time.

This, he continued, has resulted in exporters cutting corners in a bid to survive. He also noted that but for the oil export, Nigeria should be relying on Agro-export.

He said there is a need for the federal government to have a comprehensive review of the processes at export.

Reacting to the above, National Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Joseph Atteh, said it is the duty of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, NEPC, to regulate export, adding that Customs only monitor to ensure that documents for export correspond with the items intended for export.

On export of logs, he said that they have impounded lots of unprocessed log of wood intended to be export.

In his words, “There have been several attempts to smuggle these logout and you know log is on our export prohibition list.

“There have been several seizures of containers of wood by the Service, we have made so many seizures. I would have given you details but I have closed and at home now,” he stated.

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