The immediate past National President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu, has faulted moves by the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) to return to the nation’s seaports, saying that it would further increase the cost of doing business at the ports.
SON is one of the eight agencies sacked from the port by the then former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonko Iweala in 201l as part of effort to address delays associated with cargo clearance.
The affected agencies including the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Port Quarantine Services were directed to leave the pot environment and to only come on the invitation by the Nigeria Customs Service.
Recently, SON had intensified move to return to the port with lobbying of the House of Representatives and some associations of the Customs agents and freight forwarders to return to port.
The agency had claimed that since its personnel were withdrawn from the port, it has not been able to effectively monitor and control influx of imported sub standard goods into the country.
But speaking with SHIPS & PORTS, Shittu said the clamour by SON to return to the port was nothing but for pecuniary gains as according to him, the agency had been integrated into the Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS 11) platform where it could monitor and block imports without SON’s certification.
Noting that Customs would not issue PAAR, a mandatory document for clearance of goods without SON’s certification, Shittu added that Customs always invite the agency to inspect suspected substandard goods when their services are required.
He said, “SON coming to the port will increase cost of clearance. Customs as the lead agency has been asked to invite any government agency whose operations involve clearance. Customs will not prepare your Pre Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR), which is the beginning of documentation for clearance, if you don’t have the SON’s certification and meanwhile the same SON is on the Customs platform where on their own they do intervention and when they see a cargo that is suppose to have a certificate and they have not issued it, they block it. So if they can block, which they have been doing, will being in the port affect their blocking or their staff will now insist partaking on all examination just to enrich themselves? There is no government agency who does any work free in the port.
“They have been in the port before and the same thing is still happening and the excuse will always be the importers are not complaint. Those who do proper declaration suffer more than those who do not comply.
“I have seen leaders of some associations helping them to clamour for return to the port. NAFDAC that has returned to the port, what has it done to them? Has their return improved efficiency? Their clamour is just for them to continue to milk people. All the government agencies in the port today, apart from their official revenue collection depends on private collection by their minions to hold on to the clamour to be in the port. That is why you see an increase in the number of substandard goods and fake drugs because people are not doing their work. Everybody wants to have a stake and when you put pressure on people to get specific target, the more those who are suppose to make the target more realizable will also be thinking of themselves.
Shittu said despite the Executive Order on ease of doing business by the Federal Government at the port, it has been business as usual as it had failed to reduce cost and time of cargo clearance from the port.
“Government does not know what it is doing because the PEBEC they brought in has not solved any problem inside the port. It has been business as usual. You cannot get trade facilitation by giving somebody target,” he said.