By Godfrey Bivbere
Deputy National President of National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, NCMDLCA, Adeniyi Ajayi, spoke with Vanguard Maritime Report on the activities of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS in the out gone year. He highlighted the many obstacles of Customs operations hindering trade facilitation. He listed someof them as multiple examination units, valuation units, over reliance on individual officers’ discreption as well as his expectation for the New Year.
Looking at the out gone year from the eye of a Customs Broker, how would describe the operations of the Nigeria Customs Service?
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In terms of revenue generation, the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS have surpassed their target but their operation which resulted in the huge revenue collection is not to the benefit of the industry because they have multiple units duplicating the same function for them to raise revenue.
This action of theirs infringes on trade facilitation procedure. If a cargo is released by a proper officer, I do not think that any other officer or a department of the same Customs has the right to go and stop that cargo again; to re-examine the cargo again which causes a lot of delay in the cargo chain.
It has multiple effects on the economy, so this must be stopped. 2019 has gone, we must start from a clean slate in the New Year and I hope Customs will improve or correct this in the New Year.
Customs must harmonise their department so that all cargoes for examination at any terminal must be done holistically and come out with a robust and appreciate duty to be paid, this will save time and cost.
How did you cope with the gridlock in 2019?
It is a nightmare for the industry. As far back as 2006, NCMDLCA wrote to the federal government informing the government of how deplorable the port access road was then, it was just for them to just come and resurface then but they left it for so long until it got to this magnitude now.
They are spending over 1000 per cent of what they should have spent then. It is causing the whole country a lot, the manufacturers especially and all other sectors are really dearly affected. Movement of cargo from inside the port to outside the port gate cost between N400,000 to N450,000.
To move a container from the port to around Sanya bus stop along Apapa-Oshodi expressway, the importer is expected to pay between N800,000 to N900,000. The transporters are not the cause, it is the fault of the government that failed to take action and put in place the right policy to solve the problem by doing what it is supposed to do at the right time.
We have government agencies like the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA and the Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC collecting huge revenue annually from the industry, couldn’t they have done anything about it to influence the maintenance of the road?
Yes they could have but the lack of corporation between them is a major problem.
A lot has been said about the action of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU and the Comptroller General Strike Force, has there been any improvement?
We have written several letters to the government on the activities of these Customs units and the effect on trade facilitation. We stated there that they do not have right to come 10 to 15 kilometres to the port but you can see them even right at the port gate. They even mount checkpoint at the port gates which is illegal because a proper officer has cleared the cargo.
If he or she did not do it right, then the Customs management should do the right thing. You do not address an issue like killing a tree by cutting the branches because what they normally do is that they apprehend the cargo or the container, reassess them and tell them to pay more.
Meanwhile, the proper officer who authorised the clearance is let off the hock without any consequence. We have written to government advising that any officer involved in such situation should be dealt with according to the law but Customs is not concern about their officers.
But there is claim that importers and agents are fond of under-declaration and that is why Customs always insist on 100 per cent examination.
All over the world, businessmen are into the business to make a profit and they will do whatever it takes to maximise their profits. This brings me back to what I said earlier that Customs needs to commence a holistic examination of consignments.
They do not even have scanners, to even detect whatever that is coming into the country. This is a source of very high risk to the security of the nation. They also under mane the interest of the importer and the nation, if they have an interest of the nation at heart; they should do what is right.
Importers can under-declare, if they see such thing, they can re-examine and give the importer the appropriate duty to be paid as stipulated by the Customs and Exercise Management Act, CEMA but when they see such infractions and turn the other way when money exchange hands.
When the cargo gets out it is again subjected to the same thing, paying another duty; Nigeria is paying for it. Everyone will suffer for it, this is part of the reason we have hyper-inflation because Nigeria is an import-dependent nation.
Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of Vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.