Agents accuse Customs of frustrating cargo clearance at seaports

The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has accused officers of the Nigeria Customs Service of frustrating cargo clearance with the indiscriminate issuance of ‘alerts’ on imported consignments at the ports by virtually all the units of Customs involved in cargo clearance.

‘Alerts’ are usually placed on consignments to draw the attention of operational officers to suspected infractions, mostly under-declaration, on imported items. When alerts are issued, debit note is typically raised against the affected importer to pay additional Customs duty.

Speaking at a stakeholders meeting in Lagos recently, President of the association, Prince Olayiwola Shittu pointed out different units of customs are now involved in issuing alerts on consignments thereby causing undue delay.

He said the process which ought to be controlled by a unit is already frustrating cargo clearance as it now takes about three weeks to get consignment cleared out of the ports.

“Alert should be a controlling instrument to be vested in one authority but what happens is once you get alert from valuation by the time you sort yourself out and move a step another group will put alert and we are talking of 48 hour cargo clearance and that is why we cannot do it in less than three weeks as at today.

“Every customs officer who has the authority of exercising discretion now becomes an alerting officer. They threaten you to raise DN and sometimes you might wait for three day for them to raise the DN because there are reluctant in raising the DN due to personal gains,” Shittu said.

Meanwhile, the association said that it has presented a draft bill for indigenization of customs brokerage practice in Nigeria.

Shittu explained that this become imperative following the overbearing dominance of foreigners who he said have taking over the jobs of customs brokers in the country.

He said contrary to what is obtained in Nigeria where foreigners are issued licenses and allowed to practice, a Nigerian cannot go to any country in the sub region to practice as a customs broker.

“You cannot go to Cotonue or Ghana as a Nigerian and say you want to clear a consignment out of the port, it is not possible. It is only in Nigeria here you have Lebanese, India having licenses as Customs brokers. It is not done anywhere in the world. So we felt we need to do an indigenization of Customs brokerage,” he said.

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