Stakeholders identify cumbersome clearing processes, poor infrastructure as obstacles to 48hrs cargo clearance

Stakeholders at a forum organised by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) in Lagos yesterday blamed cumbersome processes, multiple check points and poor infrastructure as some of the factors militating against prompt clearance of goods at the nation’s seaports.

During a forum on 48 hours clearance of cargo held in the port city of Apapa yesterday, the stakeholders blamed the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) for laying emphasis on revenue generation rather than trade facilitation.

Representative of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) on the board of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Mr. John Aluya, said, “Customs forgot that when trade are facilitated, more revenue will be generated and that would have solved the problem.”

Aluya also accused Customs of “wrong interpretation” of the federal government’s fiscal policy leading to the trapping of over 2,000 containers inside the port.
“If a circular is sent from the ministry of finance to the customs on a particular issue, when it get there they will give the circular another interpretation which will take several weeks before it is clarified.
“There was a circular of government that say that any one that have perfected their documentation of import are allowed to pay the duty at the old rate but customs said that no and it was given another interpretation and as we speak over 2,000 containers are still trapped at the port.”

He however did not disclose the port concerned or the nature of goods in the trapped containers.
He disclosed that a meeting scheduled to hold between the owners of the goods in the trapped containers and the management of customs in Abuja last week failed to hold because government operations and business activities were paralysed by the World Economic Forum Africa hosted by Nigeria.

“This week that we are supposed to meet the ACG (Assistant Comptroller General of Customs); when we called we were told she is in Dubai. How can the country move forward with this trend?” he queried.

Other speakers at the event identified poor port access roads and lack of professionalism on the part of importers and freight forwarders as additional factors bedeviling port operation in the country.
“The roads taking the goods out are not road worthy, though the roads cannot be extended beyond what it is but the government should make it road worthy for easy flow of traffic,” one of the participants at the event stated.
Also speaking, the General Manager, Western Ports of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Adenike Shonaike, said that documentation procedures at the port must be addressed if the nation desires to attain 48 hour cargo clearance.
Sonaike, who was represented by the Barr. Effiota Ephraim, said that too many documents have to be signed before a consignment can be cleared at the port.
Chairman of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mrs. Julie Ogboru, urged importers to embrace honesty when declaring their cargoes.
She said lack of integrity on the part of importers and inefficiency of bank officials contribute to delays at the port. She also stated that the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) scheme of the Nigeria Customs Service is facing a lot of problems thus making cargo clearing a herculean task.
“The problem iis that if you have a PAAR, Customs will jack up the FOB, insurance but the CG had said that if there is PAAR one can get goods out of the ports.

“Everybody want to come to the port to make money, every agencies of government want to come to the port to make money, if we are to acheive this aim they have to be pruned because there are mostly duplication of duties,” she stated.