You can get your consignments from Apapa Customs in less than 12 hrs – Garko
Customs Area Controller (CAC) of the Apapa Area 1 Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Comptroller Adamu Yusuf Garko, in this interview with some journalists, including Ships & Ports Shulammite Oladun, last Friday in his office says Customs is fully prepared to commence round-the-clock operations. The Kano State-born Customs top brass equally reels out his achievements within four months of assuming office
How has it been since you took over the mantle of leadership at the command?
I have been here for over four months now and I met on assumption of duty highly disciplined, committed and very experienced officers. To whom much is given, much they say is expected, that is why we have been able to achieve the current feat. However there are also challenges to contend with and when you talk about challenges, it is everywhere. In every society and system there are challenges which could be human because customs deals with people of different backgrounds, different organizations and different conglomerates and yet there are different approaches all looking for one particular issue. It is not easy to try to harmonize or try to educate and try to make your point at times. For instance, there are cases where you try to educate people but they seem not to understand the policy and sometimes, it is even difficult to explain certain things to people because they will keep on coming with same issues you have addressed over and over again. And sometimes, some people do that because of personal interest. But on our own part, we are doing our very best to see that we educate people and enlighten them on customs operation. We are always here to serve the public.
There has been an increase in your command’s revenue profile, what is the motivating force?
The increase in revenue in the command can be attributed to so many factors. This include discipline, patriotism, re-commitment, welfare package as well as capacity building provided by the present administration under the leadership of the Comptroller General of Customs, Alhaji Abulahi Dikko. There is also availability of material resources with which we are able to do our work. We also operate an open door policy which has helped improve our relationship with stakeholders. This I believe has contributed immensely in achieving harmony within the command. We have also recorded a lot of seizures and it has been quite impressive. We have about 66 seizures within the year.
As is it now, how long does it take to clear cargo at the Apapa command?
It is not all about duty, if you make genuine declarations and your papers are correct, and you pay the correct duty you are supposed to pay to government, I can assure you that less than twelve hours you can get your consignments from customs. Now we even do release electronically.
What is government’s policy on the issue of overtime cargo?
Any cargo on arrival at the customs ports must be cleared within 28days and where there is duty to be paid, you have to pay including other taxes and you clear your consignments. But if you fail to do so within the stipulated period another grace of thirty days will be given and if the agent or importer did not show up it will be termed as overtime cargo and it can be auctioned, or disposed off as the case may be. Despite the grace period given to owners of these consignments, they still will not come to clear. For example some consignments have been at the port since 2008 and they are mostly government consignments and some individuals. At Apapa Port for instance, we still have a lot of overtime cargoes but we are in the process of taking them to the government warehouse at Ikorodu so that we can have more space here. At present, we have in different places 475, 62, 50.Reasons given by these individuals are that they are either bankrupt or the bank they are using has collapsed or even as a result of high demurrage. However, we have been making effort to get in touch with these importers through public enlightenment. At any given forum people are educated and even the CGC has even encouraged some parastatals and some agencies to clear their consignments.
Over time, there have been clamour by some licensed customs agents that the Nigeria Customs Service should have a uniform valuation of imported goods. What will you say to that?
I find it difficult to believe that assertion because we give a value range. If you look at goods from China or Europe the values are different. Differences in the economic factors of a particular country are the key determinants in fixing the unit cost of goods produced in such countries. You cannot have a uniform value because what you produce in Europe, in far East and near East have different values. There are certain factors you must consider when you talk about unit cost. For example in some countries labour is cheap while it is not so in other countries. For example, if you are importing any product, we use the cost of the item, freight, and cost of insurance in assessing your goods. For example a container coming from China and the one from United States with the one coming from Belgium will differ in terms of value. These are some of the things that determine the value of a given product. It will not be possible to have a uniform value because the products differs and that is why we always call on importers and agents that they should declare exactly what they have with a correct value then they will be able to have a smooth sail with the Nigeria Customs Service.
One of the directives of the Finance Minister during her maiden visit to the Apapa port is that Customs will soon commence a 24 hours operation, how prepared are you ?
As for customs, we are ready anytime any day but the problem is that you cannot force the agents to come on Saturdays or Sundays. But for us, I can speak for customs that we are ready anytime any day. There is no problem about that directive.
It seems the monthly stakeholders’ forum initiated by the Comptroller General in the command is gradually losing it important. What would you say the forum has achieved so far under your tenure?
I have been opportune to chair the meeting twice and we took some far reaching decisions. But the third one was when we had problem because of the raid incident that happened at the Tin Can Island Port, so because of that many agents did not turn out so we decided that we should be doing it every three month instead of making it every month. We are supposed to have one last month but we could not because of some issues that came up that will override the meeting but we are going to hold one before the end of this month.
What advice do you have for importers and customs agents?
It is nothing other than declare properly, pay correct duty and you have no problem with the Nigeria Customs Service.
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