We have deployed PAAR to Nigerian embassies abroad – Bashar

Bashar_customs-bgBarring any last minute change, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) will next week take over full implementation of the Destination Inspection (DI) of imported cargoes in the country. The new e- clearance system; the Pre -Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) will replace the Risk Assessment Report (RAR) generated by the three appointed DI service providers whose contracts will expire this Saturday.
Ahead of the take over, NCS says it had trained newly employed computer graduates to manage the PAAR platform in order to ensure a seamless transition. The Service last Thursday at Apapa Customs Command flagged off its awareness campaign on the use of the PAAR. Deputy Comptroller in charge of ICT, Bashar Yusuf, who led a team of the ICT unit while fielding questions from journalists, spoke extensively on the workings and benefits of PAAR amongst other issues. Shulammite ‘Foyeku was there for SH IPS & PORTS DAILY.

What brought about PAAR and how does it work? 
The Risk Assessment Report (RAR) came into existence because the federal government assigned the three destination inspection firms namely Cotecna, Global Scan and SGS to do an inspection that will issue this document for processing of cargo release. We are used to RAR where we get all the classifications, all the variations we require as a document to process release of cargo imported into Nigeria. However, within the last two years, the service started the development of what is called Pre-Arrival Assessment Report which we simply call PAAR. PAAR is to facilitate trade better than the Risk Assessment Report that we are used to. RAR do come in only after your cargo has arrived. The PAAR we envisage however will be released to you before the cargo arrives. Chances are that by the end of this month this 7-year contract will be over and the Nigeria Customs Service feels that it cannot leave the generality of the importing public and those who are interested in import and export just like that. These days what you do is that you process your Form ‘M’ through the banks. We pick the bank as the meeting point. It is your Form ‘M’ Bank that will forward documents to the PAAR platform in the Customs headquarters. We do not expect you to spend your money just to come to Abuja to present a document. Do it through your form ‘M’ bank. They will be downloaded and forwarded to us, we will receive it online. This starts before your cargo arrives. If your bank is okay with what you present to them, they will forward the form ‘M’ to us and if we approve it, we will notify you and the bank. If we reject it, we will notify you and the bank with reasons for rejections so that you can correct it and forward your form ‘M’ once again to the bank. So that means we will use a lot of internet between us and the importing public as the first starting point of facilitation of trade. The moment your Form ‘M’ is registered and approved, you continue with your import and only forward all documents through that same bank of your form ‘M’ .Once you forward the final documents to the bank, they will automatically download and send them to us. You still don’t need to come to Abuja to do any process. Once the banks forward these final documents, we will paste whatever action we will take on your documentation. We look at the value you have, we look at the classification you built in and if we are comfortable that there are genuine value and classifications of what you want to import then we issue you with the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report which we will send to your email address and to your bank. All these will be before the arrival of your cargo. So there are two things we need from importers so that we will give them that which they need; compliance and honesty. These are very important things for the success of every trade change.

What significant difference is there between RAR and PAAR? 
In the case of the RAR it starts processing when your containers are here. In the case of the PAAR we start before your cargo arrives. So that is why I said the integrity of the documentation an importer is sending and compliance on the trade would help us do what he wants; to facilitate the release of the cargo in good time. Truly, once we take over these functions, we do not intend to have cargoes staying in the port longer than necessary. Any cargo that stays in the port as far as customs is concerned is cargo that does not have factual documentation. Remember we are using an electronic platform; hence we have several ways to get the value of the goods an importer is importing from the export country. We enter into many memorandum of understanding with major customs administration where Nigeria do import things and remember that whatever an importer imports must have gone through the customs of the exporting country. So definitely, we can access information the way an importer presents them. That means if an importers presents a value to Customs of China for example to process whatever he needs for shipment and if they have other regulations for that cargo, we can access the same information from the headquarters. We can access it from the Chinese platform because we have an understanding with them. So if as an importer, you bring in a cargo and you decide to tamper with the documentation because you are now in your country but you are able to give all the necessary documentation to Chinese customs administration, we can easily track you down because we have access to these information and we can only help you if you give us factual information. If you fail to give factual information then we will access other sources to get the actual value including reaching to your exporter because they are all online as well.

What is the idea behind the Nigeria Trade hub? 
The Nigeria Trade Hub is a guide for every importer into Nigeria. It is also a guide for every exporter sending goods to Nigeria. It is a guide for everyone who has anything to transit into Nigeria. So if we are calling for integrity, if we are calling for compliance, if we are calling for factual trade data then we as a Service need to provide a tool that will guide importers in order for them to follow the laws. So we built this trade hub which is called Nigerian Trade Hub www.nigeriantradehub.com.ng to encourage you to understand what to do.

Is this enlightenment campaign not coming late? 
No. We have deployed the PAAR and the trade hub to several places and institutions, to embassies of Nigeria abroad and now to Apapa as the starting pointing in Lagos area. This is because importers really need to understand what is expected of them because it is something they had to do themselves. They are the same people who would forward their form ‘M’ to the banks. Bank will send an electronic form ‘M’ to the platform of customs. They are the people who will forward the final documents to their form ‘M’ banks then those banks will send the final documents to customs electronically. So we feel they should understand what is expected of them, let them understand how to use the trade hub so that compliance level will increase. A Nigerian trader is somebody who when he invests his money, he would want to see quick profit. We want to encourage them; Customs of today is saying facilitation of trade. We facilitate trade by factual presentation of documents and we need that so we have to train them to understand what we want from them so that they will do what is expected and they wouldn’t be in a terrible situation just out of ignorance. We want them to do everything based on the premise of knowledge and they are happy with that and we are happy as well with them.

Do you think this workshop is enough for the importing public to understand all the process of PAAR, the trade hub and the single window platform? 
It’s a continuing thing. We picked Apapa as the starting point. We have been coming regularly, presenting and receiving feedback from them because they are the users; they are those that this platform is meant for. Once we listen to their needs, we put the needs in the system then we bring it back to them for them to see. That is just how it is continuing. From here we will go to Tin-Can to Port Harcourt and all other areas. We have been to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria; we have been to all other partner government agencies because we say we no longer call ourselves “other government agencies”. We call ourselves “partner government agencies”. Customs, Standard Organization of Nigeria, NEASREA, NAFDAC, and Federal Inland Revenue Service are all considered as one entity in the trade supply chain process. So a Nigerian trader will understand everything and can do one thing at once and it is satisfying to all. So it is a continuous process. Each port has unique number of products they normally clear, so we pick those products and see how we’ll clear them. The agents and the importers will mention the products then will use the system to show them how to process that product, how to secure the HS code, how to get the rates of duty, agencies that they have to meet, how many days it takes, how much it takes and then how to process the PAAR itself so that they will understand that it is not a miracle and that’s why I said anyone that has internet on his handset can follow us while we are doing it so that he will do it. Once they get that, I think they will be the trainers to other people in due course.

Talking about the Nigerian Trade Hub, an importer noted that it takes about 80 days to get a permit certificate to import from NAFDAC. Will this delay not be a clog in the wheel in achieving a seamless PAAR process? 
One point you should note is that the importer is yet to import, importation has not been done. Everything is done towards importation including the issuance of the PAAR by then the containers are not here that is why we call it pre-arrival. So everything you do is before the consignment arrives including the licenses and the permit, so it would not affect clearance. You can pay for your permit if it is SON or NAFDAC; I know they have a clause to say if you pay you start process. It will not stop customs clearance, we will still clear your cargo, and we will still give you PAAR. The permits will only advice you that this commodity for example needs SON’s permit, NAFDAC’s permit or NESREA’s clearance but it will not stop us from issuing a pre-arrival assessment report. When your consignment comes, whoever needs to see that permit can now go back to the system and they will see that you have paid and is under process and they would let you go. Later you can come back for perfection with the permit number and other things but it will not stop you from clearing.

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