Customs warns against trading in prohibited wood products, midstream discharge

The Tin Can Island Port Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has said that only semi-treated and fully processed wood products will be allowed through its command as export.

Speaking with stakeholders in Lagos recently, Customs Area Comptroller of the command, Yusuf Bashar said that it had to sensitize the trading public particularly exporters on the need to ensure that only exportable wood products are brought in to the port adding that anything short of what the law permits, will be confiscated.

Bashar also said that the command had to bring in officials of the Federal Environment Protection Agency, (FEPA) to assist the Customs in explaining and showing to exporters difference between treated and untreated wood products.

He explained that exports do not attract any duty adding that in the light of falling oil price, the government is trying to encourage Nigerians to export as much as they can with a view to repatriating foreign currencies back home.

“It is an incentive to encourage export because it is assumed that money will come to government based on exportable products from Nigeria most especially now that Nigeria is having issue with crude oil.

“Price per barrel is going down, it is our major foreign exchange earner so Nigerians must be encouraged to export as much lawful products as possible.

“At a point, we asked ourselves how we can encourage exports from our end, we thought that the best way to do that was to sensitize the people and tell what exports are allowed by law.

“We took wood products as the first item amongst exportable products because it attracts a lot of attention.

“The need for the campaign became imperative due to the seeming confusion emanating from the export of wood products as almost every container with wood export despite the status, is considered contraband by the unimformed.

“So we met exporters of wood products, freight forwarders of wood exporters, our own Customs personnel and any interested members of the public and let them know the categories of wood that are lawfully exportable,” he said.

According to Bashar, other government agencies that approved such exports were also invited to tell exporters what is called processed and semi processed woods.

He said the more there is communication, the higher the compliance level adding that unprocessed wood is banned from export.

At the meeting with stakeholders, he disclosed the samples of processed, semi-processed and unprocessed wood products were shown to exporters and warned that he would not want to see unprocessed wood products in the command.

He further explained that he will ensure that the four policy thrust of the Customs management will be implemented to the letter adding that the agency must facilitate trade as much as possible so as to make the ports attractive.

He noted that the ignorance of the law by port users has been the most challenging task he had faced since assumption of duty.

Meanwhile, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali has directed strict enforcement of all relevant provisions of the extant laws of NCS on ships and vessels that berth illegally outside Customs ports.

The directive is contained in a circular issued by the service dated January 21, 2016, and sent to all units, commands and zonal headquarters of Customs.

The circular was signed on behalf of the comptroller-general by a Deputy Comptroller-General, Ms Grace Adeyemo.

It explained that the directive followed intelligence reports which indicated some form of compromise by NCS officers.

“Intelligence reports reaching headquarters indicate some form of compromise by officers where deliberate acts of impunity are perpetuated through illegal berthing of ships/vessels and mid-stream discharge of cargo other than officially designated Customs ports despite existing circulars.

“In effect, I am directed to reiterate and convey the Comptroller-General of Customs directive on strict enforcement of the Extant Laws and Circulars in that regard.

“That on no circumstance should any ship/vessel coming in from foreign, berth at any other place other than the conventional ports first.

“Where any of such ship/vessel is Free Zone-bound or designate, it shall set sail thereafter under official escort of the Enforcement Unit of the Command for further official processes.

“You are further directed to enforce strictly all relevant provisions of the Extant laws including Section 26 of customs and excise management act (CEMA) upon any encountered violation in that regard,” the circular said. 


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