The federal government has appealed to licensed customs agents and freight forwarders to shelve their proposed withdrawal of service from the nation’s seaports and land border over alleged irregularities in the cargo clearing processes by the Nigeria Customs Service and other government agencies.
Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transport, Alhaji Sabiu Zakari made the plea at a meeting with representatives of the two freight forwarding associations held at the Nigerian Shippers Council headquarters in Lagos on Wednesday.
It would be recalled that both associations had earlier issued a 21-day ultimatum to the government to address some of the issues militating against smooth cargo clearance.
They had listed highhandedness, impunity, extortion, blocking and diversion of properly exited cargoes on the highway and unwarranted detention of their members by officers of the NCS and other agencies of the government in the ports as some of the practices militating against smooth cargo clearance, trade facilitation.
Addressing representative of the association, Zakari urged the freight forwarders to shelve their proposed withdrawal of service as the government, in recognition of their important role in international trade was prepared to address the issues they have raised.
The associations in a joint statement highlighted some of the inefficiencies of the Nigeria Customs to include trade alerts in abuse; issuance of double PAAR and withdrawal without notice to importer; inherent abuse in the risk of managing value data for Customs purposes and absence of uniformity in the clearance of vehicles with regard to ex-factory prices
Others are delays associated with writing examination reports; unauthorised agencies of the government and individuals participating during customs examination; Customs CIU officers making their presence noticed at the examination bay and reporting their findings after goods have been released leading to second examination; valuable and expensive items taken as samples without accounting for them among others.
Meanwhile, both associations have agreed to extend the ultimatum to withdraw their services from the ports.
Speaking at the meeting, Founder of NAGAFF, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam called on the Ministry to, as a matter of urgency, organise elections into the Governing Council of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), in accordance with the Act setting it up.