Hameed Ali tackles Amaechi, says Customs not frustrating single window

Contrary to allegations by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amechi that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is frustrating cargo clearance by not integrating into the National Single Window (NSW), Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali, said in Lagos on Friday that NCS is highly compliant with the portal.

At the commissioning of a marine operation and surveillance centre at the Nigerian Ports Authority in Lagos recently, Amaechi said the failure of Customs to connect to the National Single Window, a cross-government website for trade facilitation, is hindering effective operation at the seaports.

Amaechi said, “The Comptroller General of Customs has to agree for the Customs to be connected to the NSW to make our ports more effective. All we are doing now is manual; it will not last for long.

“Very soon, Nigerians will protest against the ports. People are already importing through the Benin Republic. Everyone has a single window. Niger that used to import things through Nigeria is doing so through another country. This is because we are charging both official and unofficial fees. Goods in Nigeria are too expensive.”

But the Customs Comptroller said that the NSW is a creation of the World Customs Organisation (WCO) for trade facilitation and is a platform where both government agencies and others with various business interests key into.

He said, “It is a one stop shop and once the importer keys his Form M it is available to everybody. It is only the Customs that drew the road map for NSW.”

The CGC noted that the NCS has 27 stakeholders that key into its portal.

“It is only the NCS that has the highest number of stakeholders on its portal; he said adding that the port portal which some people may be alluding to as National Single Window is not,” he said.

Meanwhile the CGC has given stern warning to importers who abuse the fast-track facility given to them by the NCS to be ready to face the music as they would not escape the long arm of the law.

He also cautioned agents who connive with importers to defraud the country as taking a big risk as the same punishment will be extended to them. Not left out are custom officials who clear such consignments even when they know they were falsely declared.

The CGC read the riot act when he visited Apapa port command of the Nigeria Customs on his way from Cotonou where he made a two-day working visit. Ali’s hurried visit which came as a result of the arrests of some containers of an importer who enjoys the fastrack facility but who declared falsely some 26 containers underscored the gravity of the situation on ground.

According to the Customs Area Controller, Apapa Command, Comptroller Willy Egbudin, the importer, Messrs D.I.E HOPES based in Ikeja, Lagos, was the one involved. From his narrative, his command got a tip-off on July 26, 2016 that 16 containers laden with tyres at the port were falsely declared as paper board and industrial machinery and were about to be moved. He immediately gave out order that the containers be impounded. On Friday the 29th, the containers were intercepted at the gate. They were taken to enforcement while the clearing agent took off.

The CAC said the agent later came back and when investigation was done by the Customs it was discovered that all the consignments were car tyres. The Command then profiled the importer and discovered that the total number of the containers was 26, and the company had taken delivery of 10 falsely declared. The agent was thereby detained while efforts are on to track the importer.

Egdudin said that by the false declaration, a total amount N116, 284.740.00 duty was lost by Customs.

While giving the warning on fraudulent practices, the Customs CG said, “Anybody got in this crime will be brought to book. Once you falsely declare and we discover it, it is automatic seizure. Whoever is involved will face the law and if there is any officer that connived with the importer he will be prosecuted and the minimum jail term is 5years.”

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