Licensed Customs agents operating at the ports in Lagos have decried the incessant breakdown of the computer server of the Nigeria Customs Service; a development they said has led to many cargoes being trapped at the port.
Speaking in a chat with SHIPS & PORTS, a former Chairman of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) and a top shot of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Hakeem Olanrewaju, said the situation has persisted for the past one week.
Olanrewaju said as a result of the situation, agents have not been able to generate the Customs clearance document – the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) – and make duty payment to clear their consignments.
He advised Customs to grant provisional release of affected cargoes to enable the owners take their goods whenever there is system failure rather than making them suffer for a problem they did not cause.
He said, “For almost one week, we have been having issues with the Customs system and if the system is not working, they cannot print PAAR. Even if you want to pay, you cannot make an assessment and it is affecting a lot of us because it is the PAAR you will use to clear your goods.
“Customs should make alternative provision for people to clear their goods so that agents will not be paying additional demurrage which is adding cost to the value of the goods for a problem that is not their fault and to avoid creating more congestion at the ports.
“By the time they restore the system and people are able to make duty payment, everybody will want to clear their cargoes at the same time and that will also increase transport cost because the transporters will capitalize on the rush.
“Customs should upgrade their system and they should not wait until the system collapses totally. There should be alternative platforms for importers to carry their goods and when the system is okay, they will go and perfect their document with Customs.”
Olanrewaju also accused the Comptroller General of Customs, Hammed Ali of frustrating trade with multiple units of customs intercepting already cleared cargoes at the port.
According to him, “Trade facilitation is not going on well and it is because you have someone at the helm of affairs that is not a Customs officer and doesn’t understand the nitty-gritty of the job, I don’t see how he will facilitate trade.
“It is because they (Customs) are enjoying our ignorance that is why they have created every unit of Customs to be intercepting cargoes released from the port. If we want to say we are professional freight forwarders or Customs brokers, we need training. We need to know what the law says. Some of our people too are not doing the right thing because if you do the right thing, nobody will stop you. We have to have attitudinal change,” he said.
Reacting to the breakdown of the Customs server, Customs Public Relations Officer, Joseph Attah, confirmed that the server experienced some technical hitches but said the issue had been resolved.