The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has faulted claims by the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) that the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) scheme of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has failed.
NAGAFF Founder, Dr Boniface Aniebonam said in a chat with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY yesterday that rather than pick holes in the PAAR regime, agents and importers should embrace honest and genuine declaration of their imports.
While agreeing with ANLCA that PAAR was designed to be a final document; Aniebonam said the scheme has been bedevilled by lack of honesty of importers and their agents.
Ships & Ports reported yesterday that nine months into NCS takeover of the Destination Inspection scheme and subsequent implementation of the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) in cargo clearance system, ANLCA declared on Tuesday that the scheme has failed; claiming that it has not improved trade facilitation in the country as envisaged. The association said PAAR failed because field officers of the NCS sabotaged its implementation for pecuniary gains.
At a general meeting chaired by its National President, Prince Olayiwola Shittu in Lagos on Tuesday, ANLCA said the association had lost faith in PAAR because it has been subjected to abuse and has not been respected as a final clearing document.
Shittu said the major problem in customs clearance procedure is the absence of an acceptable value data for items that are imported regularly into the country.
The association therefore called for a meeting with the Comptroller General of Customs with all Customs area controllers in attendance to resolve the challenges of the pre-arrival report scheme.
A major concern raised at the meeting was the issuance of outrageous value and querying of cargoes by the Customs intelligent Unit (CIU).
“I don’t see any improvement on the PAAR, what we are seeing is bottlenecks, every customs officer is looking for money. We fought for this PAAR but unfortunately, customs are using it against us,” a Board of Trustees member of the association, Prince Tai Oyeniyi, stated during the meeting.
A former Vice President of ANLCA, Mr. Dayo Azeez, also expressed dissatisfaction with queries raised by customs after the issaunce of PAAR and the subsequent imposition of 25 per cent penalty on every PAAR document queried.
“When your PAAR is queried by customs and you agree that the customs query is right, they give you a debit note and at the same time, they are raising another 25 percent penalty on the DN (Debit Note); that is not acceptable by us,” he said at the association’s general meeting on Tuesday.
The agents also demanded that Area Controllers be given the power to address queries on PAAR at the various commands rather than refer them to the post-clearance audit to avoid delay.
A committee headed by the Azeez was subsequently set up to come up with a communiqué on the challenges identified which would be forwarded to the appropriate quarters.
Members of the committee comprise ANLCA National Secretary, Dr. Emma Opara, former Tin Can chapter chairman, Kayode Farinto and the association’s legal adviser, Barrister Chekube Osonwa.
But Aniebonam, in his reaction said, “It is quite obvious that the customs CG said that PAAR is a final document that should not be queried but those of us who move goods from Customs control will agree with me that the abuse inherent in PAAR was due to the fact that people are not complaint to regulations and that is to say that there is no genuine declaration for customs purposes.
“We have not moved from the old order where matter of untrue declaration was the order of the day and that has not helped any system. What was happening at the old order was rearing its heads and that has nothing to do with PAAR as a regime or administration but in other words, you can take the matter to the critical stakeholders – the freight forwarders and importers – who are not adhering to the rules of engagement of genuine declaration for Customs purposes and move away from issues that have to do with concealment, false and under declaration.
“We must not forget that revenue generation comes first for Customs even before trade facilitation and we know that government need that money to meet up with its responsibilities so if we do not conform to regulations in terms of compliance, definitely the customs will not fold its hands and they must go for the collection of appropriate duty and that is what they are doing.
“The onus is on us to give direction and that has to do with genuine declaration for Customs purpose; that is when we can access PAAR. We can’t judge PAAR right now that we are not compliant.”
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