Clearing agents threaten to expose corrupt customs men with video recording

Corrupt customs officials, particularly those at the centre stage of goods clearing procedures had better beware, as clearing agents have threatened to henceforth engage the use of secret camera phones in exposing perpetrators of such acts.

The warning was handed down during the week by the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGGAF), in a release signed by the Association’s National Welfare Officer, Elder Donatus Ofomah.

While urging the Customs management to dismantle all unapproved desks through which corrupt practices allegedly thrive, the body called on its members to be vigilant and forward names “and probably get a recorded video of any government agent involved in bribery to NAGAFF Headquarters. “

“We assure you that NAGAFF is in contact with the leadership of very critical agencies of the government in the ports to address such unwholesome conducts. It is our view that the Nigeria Customs Service should by now dismantle all unapproved desks and standing committees that have to do with port operations and Customs formalities with a view to facilitating trade, reduce corruption rate and contacts with operatives,” NAGAFF said.

The association also took a swipe at the conduct of some officers at the Valuation Unit whom they accused of conducting their affairs in ways that negate due process in resolving such contentious import related issues. This, it noted, had been referred to the attention of the Comptroller General of Customs, Abdullahi Inde Dikko, noting that the Customs boss “is addressing it quickly and appropriately.”

Ofonmah stated: “There is no doubt that freight agents are not very happy with the conduct of officers on matters of valuation of goods which in most time may not be in accordance with due process of resolving value question in Customs formalities and functions. However we advise that such problems or occurrences should attract the attention of the Area Comptroller of the Command.”

The Association however lauded what it called, the “very responsive” manner with which the Apapa Area One Controller, Charles Edike Ekporwei, had been handling such related issues and urged him not to relent in his efforts to facilitate trade at the port.

NAGAFF however urged the management team of Apapa Port command to reconsider their position with regard to re-routing or changing the risk management channels in this transition period. “This is very important with a view to easing out hardship at the scanning site” it said.

The body however stressed that the move had become necessary in order not to compound the worrisome problem of congestion at the terminals, noting that the terminal operator may not find it easy to cope with the expected volume of cargo including the expenses incurred from the trucking companies taking container to the scanning site.

Reacting to a recent circular from the Customs management on guidelines on the new goods clearing regime of Pre Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR), the association urged its members to take advantage of the concession offered via the circular to clear their goods which were caught in the web of guidelines change to clear such affected imports.

The circular with reference number: 13/2013 on guidelines on transition to Pre Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) of the Nigeria Customs Service had stated in part, “goods that have arrived on or before 30th November, 2013 with approved e-form M and processed final documents but not issued the RAR are directed to apply to the CAC for provisional release upon payment of duty and other necessary clearing process”.

It further stated that “importers who have already processed their documents and whose RARs (Risk Assessment Reports were) pending in the banks and could not be transmitted to NICIS platform as at 30th November, 2013 by the Service Providers are directed to access their RARs from the authorized banks and commence processing of their goods.

The Association noted that the palliative platform which is expected to end 31st of January, 2014 was in the best interest of the importing publics and an indication that customs appeared ready more than ever before to implement the rules of the game.

“To us in NAGAFF the Nigeria Customs Service management board is now obviously positioned to invoke relevant sections of the Customs law to facilitate international trade in Nigeria. It is therefore very necessary that freight agents and importers should take due advantage of this platform to overcome the anticipated backlog of containers inherent in the transition period,” it said.

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