It is true that before policies are made and modalities adopted for purposes of facilitating international trade, they must have been well-thought out.
It is also true that projections on the goals they aim for such policies to achieve may have made, with a hope or an assurance of meeting the set goals.
However, it is important to consider the working environment in which a policy or an adopted modality of operation is expected to take shape.
When the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) introduced the Pre-arrival Assessment Report(PAAR) as a tool for fast-tracking cargo clearance procedures, various quarters of key stakeholders received it with mixed reactions.
While it was embraced in a way, based on the promise by the NCS that cargoes would have been assessed and valued before arrival; thereby eliminating delays usually associated with clearance procedures, important and necessary questions were asked.
Many importers and agents wanted to know if the NCS had perfected the modalities of the operation. They expressed fears of lapses that may end up being unfavourable to trade promotion.
PAAR however kicked off in December 2013, since change remains the only constant thing.
Holes were picked in the operations of PAAR, considering that provisions were not made to exhaustively address some challenges that were bound to arise as the regime tries to take shape in its operating environment.
Agents complained over the uplifting of values on duty payable. It was bad enough that in some cases, different values were given to the same consignment, making the valuation system to be questionable.
For trade to progress, it is certain that matters of valuation cannot be done arbitrarily. It must be systematic to ensure working in line with internationally-acceptable standard.
The system also reportedly made importers to suffer for mistakes that emanated from the NCS, like in cases of recording more containers than the importer actually had.There have been several examples of people whose PAAR registered seven containers when they actually had three of five.
Going back to the same fears of delays and subsequent congestion at the port, the agents say there had not been any help desk by the NCS where these lapses could be addressed, thereby taking the operations of the system back to what it used to be.
At some point, the NCS authorities agreed that every-newly introduced system could be faced with some ‘teething’ problems, hoping that the initial challenges in the operations of PAAR would be addressed.
Even while visiting Nigeria, the Secretary-General of the World Customs Organisation, Kunio Mikuriya, agreed that the ‘teething’ problems would be experienced in the course of PAAR trying to be established as a tool for fast-tracking trade.
Considering that the ‘teething’ problems have lingered for long, bearing the fact that trade cannot ride on hitches, the NCS, recently, agreed to look into the challenges afflicting the operations of PAAR.
In order to avoid a looming congestion at the ports, the service recommended that people whose PAAR had faults in terms of valuation or quantity of consignment and other issues, should present their cases at commands where they operate.
It was agreed that immediate physical examination would be done on such consignments and release effected to avoid further delays.
It is commendable that the NCS introduced that intervention to relieve the owners of the consignments the challenges that hinders a progressive trade plan.
It is hoped that this intervention will tidy up the gaps in the PAAR regime. The NCS should also endeavour to work proactively by making provision to address immediately, errors that could likely arise in the form generation.
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