An undercover reporter of SHIPS & PORTS DAILY has revealed that Nigeria’s insurance industry is losing over N18 billion annually to forgery of marine insurance certificates at the Nnewi Building located on 1, Creek Road, Apapa, Lagos.
Findings by the reporter revealed that an estimated 100 forged marine insurance certificates are produced daily at the Nnewi Building, which is located close to the nation’s premiere port, the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa.
The forged insurance certificate, issued on goods worth millions of naira, is typically sold for a paltry N20,000 although this amount varies, depending on the situation.
Under the guise of procuring a forged certificate, the SHIPS & PORTS DAILY undercover reporter observed more than ten “insurance agents” churning out the documents for their numerous clients, mostly clearing agents, who throng the popular Nnewi Building complex.
A clearing agent, who identified himself as Yinka, when approached by our correspondent, confirmed that forged marine insurance certificates were being produced at Nnewi building by unscrupulous persons. He however admitted that it was not advisable to forge marine insurance certificates because it could lead to seizure of the goods it is meant to cover when discovered.
He said, “Insurance companies issue marine insurance certificates based on the value of the invoice. It is always a percentage of the value on the invoice. Each insurance company has their own percentage. Some 0.2% or 0.21%; it varies. But first, you would need to get Form M, proforma invoice. I can help get the necessary documentation and then charge you for it.”
Another agent who identified himself as Sodiq said there were two types of marine insurance certificates; those being issued by the insurance companies and that being issued at Nnewi building.
He said, “From the insurance company they will cost the value of the goods coming in so that they will know the amount for which to insure it. But if you just need the certificate to prepare documents and get Form M, we do that here and it doesn’t cost much.
“If the person is importing new products, the product certificate will cost him N20,000 and proforma invoice. If he doesn’t have a product certificate, we will draft one for him.
“Normally it takes two to three weeks or more to get it but we can use our contacts at the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to get it on time. When you have the product certificate and proforma invoice, then you can prepare the Form M. What you declare on the proforma invoice is what we use to prepare your insurance certificate.”
A customs agent named Seun, who operates from the same building told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that one could easily procure a forged marine insurance certificate with any amount between N10,000 and N25,000 as against more than N100,000 that could be required to procure an original document.
Another customs agent, Godwin, whom our correspondent met at the Apapa Customs Command, said, “If you want to insure your goods that you are importing using the right channels, you have to approach the insurance company.
“What we do here is just like third party motor insurance certificate, it is not like the direct motor insurance certificate when you want to insure your car. We have an insurance copy that we use to generate our own marine insurance certificate.
“If you don’t have proforma invoice, we will generate one for you and use it to get the product certificate with your company’s name. When it comes out and we will join it with other documents like A.G Insurance certificate that we use here and other certificate of origin. When we put them together and submit to your bank, you will be issued a Form M. The cost to procure all these is N35,000.”
Another customs agent, Jamiu, who is also involved in the forgery scam, added that clearing agents typically acquired the forged certificates with the active connivance of Customs officers, who are bribed to “overlook it”.
Only recently, Controller of Customs in charge of Zone ‘A’ Post Clearance Audit Unit, Mohammed Abba Kura, described Nnewi Building, as a base for many licensed Customs agents trying to evade accurate duty payment.
He said the discovery was made while trying to correct duty payment discrepancies with agents. Many of the agents who used Nnewi Building as their address, he said, could not be reached.
Branch Manager, LASACO Assurance Plc, Olalekan Onakoya confirmed that several marine insurance certificates are forged.
The Director-General of the Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA), Yetunde Ilori told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that some Customs officers who have compromised, accept forged insurance certificates to clear goods from the port.
She warned importers and owners of cargoes against patronising fake clearing agents who end up cutting corners and jeopardize the safety of their goods.
Copyright 2017 Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to www.shipsandports.com.ng as the source.