Implementation of the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) cargo clearance procedure, since its introduction by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in December 2013, has become a topical issue.
The efficiency or otherwise of the new Customs clearance platform has turned out to be quite a controversial issue among agents and freight forwarding associations. Founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr Boniface Aniebonam, in this interview with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY’s Uju Ozoeze in his office penultimate Monday, says PAAR may not have added any value to trade facilitation in Nigeria.
What do you think about the much talked about achieving fair and equitable port pricing system in Nigeria?
I don’t see anything difficult about that. It’s all about respecting rules of engagement. You know the capacity and capability of the agents of the government to enforce government orders or regulations. The purport of this question is as good as saying that Nigerians do not respect rules of engagement, that they don’t like obeying the laws. But you know that even the seven point agenda of the government include elements like rule of law! So achieving equitable pricing index at the port level/operations is all about support the government will give the agency that is directly involved in this regard and of course with the cooperation of stakeholders. So it is achievable.
What do you make of the new role of Nigerian Shippers’ Council as port economic port regulator on an interim basis of one year?
We are all Nigerians. First of all, the Ports and Harbours Bill is there at the National Assembly and we all look forward to hasten that so that the statutory function as far as commercial regulation will be adequately put in force and that is to say that Shippers’ Council definitely will take that responsibility. But it is quite open and a better way of getting them prepare them for the challenges ahead. I know that government can always extend its (Shippers’ Council) tenure as they go on.
Even with the numerous complaints by agents about the new customs clearance procedure of Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) as not efficient, Customs top shots have said that PAAR is working beautifully well. What is your view?
You know I have said this severally, part of the reasons why we joined efforts with Customs is first of all to retrieve the past glory of the Customs, with the statutory responsibility of customs examination and collection of duty, from the service providers. If you look at the number of years they have stayed there, starting with Clean Report of Inspection to Risk Assessment Report and now PAAR – which is now indigenous. Anybody can blow his or her trumpet but we are not interested in that flying document because it does not add value to international trade in Nigeria. Even looking at the issue of risk management it doesn’t make any sense because all these imports get into the country without any pre inspection procedure. So even if you want to do profiling in terms of risk management you still have to do physical examination or automated examination especially when there are issues of homogenous items. So, in terms of security of the state we have to rely on physical examination or automated examination and that is when you can really talk about proper risk management as far as I am concerned. Otherwise, if you look at the instances of concealment, false declaration, wrong description of import and all that then you are not in the position to risk manage what you did not see.
So, what I am saying is that what we have been able to gain in all this is that from the first of January this year when Customs effectively took responsibility, you would agree with me that this country has made tremendous inroad into generation or reservation of revenue due to the government.
The one percent CISS normally paid to the service providers is now reverted back to the indigenous operation which will add a lot of value in terms of creating capacity and employment of young Nigerians.
For me and NAGAFF, we are not keen about the Pre-Arrival Assessment notice because we are saying that it does not add any value rather it creates undue hardship because the relevant sections of the Customs law, Sections 27, 28 and 29, created capability and possibility for Customs to use the concept of bill of sight to treat imports that are not properly documented.
And you would agree that that was the window that Customs used to cushion the effect of transition period with the seeming sabotage inherent in the normal handover to the Customs.
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