The palletisation policy is an initiative of the Presidential committee on Ease of Doing Business. Under the policy, all containerised cargoes coming into Nigeria must be palletised. Pallets are plane/flat structures utilized in cargo container ships for supporting goods.
It will be recalled that it was last year at a workshop on revised import and export guidelines organised by the Ministry of Finance in Lagos, the minister; Mrs Kemi Adeosun had hinted all stakeholders of the imminence of palletisation of imports into Nigeria. She urged those that are directly involved import trade value chain to become acquainted with export and import guidelines to avoid sanction.
Justifying the policy, the Minister had said the palletisation of cargoes coming into Nigeria would aid manual examination of consignment while the country awaits the acquisition and installation of functional scanners at the seaports and land borders.
Expected to have commenced on January 1, 2018, its full implementation date has again been shifted to March 31st, especially for imports for which Form ‘M’ had already been opened
No doubt, the stakeholders’ outcry over the policy is most justified. Leading the park of opponents is the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) which instantly expressed discontent with the new policy. In the opinion of MAN, palletisation will increase the cost of doing business in the country.
Explaining its position further, MAN stated that: “The intention of the government is to ease the cost of doing business, by making the inspection of consignment easier; however, the palletisation policy will only increase the cost. “If wooden pallets are used, treatment costs will be incurred; meanwhile, steel and plastic pallets are expensive. Who then bears the cost of the pallets from the exporting country? If the cost is imposed on the manufacturer, who imports the raw materials, they will eventually transfer the costs to the consumers.”
Perhaps to buttress MAN’s fears about the cost of using wooden pallets, one of the shipping lines have also advised that, ‘’all local clients consider the option of processing an Annual Nigerian Plant Quarantine Services (NPQS) permit for pallets to accommodate their shipments or to pay the charges per container as they arrive Nigeria.
Simultaneously, the supplier is required to ensure that the wooden pallets are treated with the provision of either the Fumigation Certificate for Pallets carrying IPPC Logo or Original Phytosanitary Certificate plus the fumigation certificate for Pallets without IPPC Logo
The now-important requirement for Plant Quarantine certificate is akin to creating another obstacle to ease of doing business, knowing government agencies for what they are.
The argument that palletisation is an international trade practice is tenable to the extent that, in other climes, there is mandatory scanning of containers, and only specialised cargoes are subjected to palletisation.
While, we agree that, when customs officers are confronted with un-palletised consignments, they find it difficult to offload them. Importers also sometimes suffer damages as a result of mishandling of consignment via human contact, while it I also true that consignments take a longer time when examined manually by customs officers. When the consignments are pack haphazardly in the container, it becomes almost impossible to examine. Sometimes due to the difficulty level, they are not thoroughly examined and anything can then be brought into the country.
However, palletisation should not be the alternative to container scanning. It is shame that no entry point in Nigeria has a functioning scanner. It is even more disappointing that the scanners stopped working shortly after the contract of the service providers were terminated and the Nigeria Customs Service took over destination inspection of cargoes.
If it is agreed that palletisation will increase cost of cargoes, which will ultimately be passed on to the final consumer or end-user, why embark on it, shouldn’t the government take on its responsibilities by procuring scanners for all the ports.
We insist that palletisation is not an alternative for scanners.