“If there is no infraction there would not be debit notes”---Controller Musa Jibrin, Apapa Customs
Comptroller Musa Jibrin is the Area Controller in charge of the Apapa Command of Nigeria Customs Service. In this interview with Shipping Position Daily correspondent; Dapo Olawuni, he spoke on the level of compliance of operators to the presidential order on ease of doing business recently issued by the Federal Government. He also said that automation has since been enthroned at the command and that there is less human contact.
“Even before the arrival of the presidential order, the Nigeria Customs Service has made giant strides towards automation” How many Chinese where involved in the recent pharmaceutical products seized at Apapa port?So far, there was none, but that does not mean there may not be nationals who may be making efforts to circumvent our laws, we do not discriminate on this note, we don’t care whose nationality is involved, once there is an infraction on our systems, I will go for whoever is involved.Talking about customs automation, how do you expect to achieve this with no scanners and most operations is still being carried out manually?I want to correct the assumption that we are still doing our operations based on hard copies of documents, it is not true; because almost all our operations these days are online, we have the capacity, we have the infrastructure and a high technical team that allows us to collate our data, process the data and allows business of cargo clearing to be done online. Not only about us, but also others who have stake in the business of clearance. As for the scanners, it is true that they are inadequate in number, we have them in short supply and we are all getting tired, but these are the backlog we inherited from the former service providers engaged by the government, but then I will tell you that the government is making efforts to supply efficient scanners, but there are other equipment as well as operational things that have been provided by port concessionaires which have to do with labour, manpower as well as equipment for off-loading and loading back of consignment. There are challenges no doubt, but we on daily basis involve service providers and remind them of some of their inadequacies and ask them to improve, we are operating within a circle and we cannot afford one member within that circle always short of doing what he is supposed to do, there is division of labour, there is need for everybody to do his bit so that the system would be synchronized and work better for everybody.
On the ease of doing business, what is the compliance level at Apapa port?I must tell you that even before the arrival of the presidential order, the Nigeria Customs Service has made giant strides towards automation, so the result of what you get now is that things have been made easier for entrepreneurs without delays, we also made the collection of government revenue more efficient because by automation, we have reduced human contact where usually infractions are perceived to have been done, now most of these things are being done online, it has improved the speed and transparency. We have developed our ASYCUDA System as far back as 1995; from there we kept improving on our level of ICT compliance, now we are having the NCIS.
Looking at state of the roads, how has it affected your operations?There is no doubt that the roads are in a very bad condition and definitely it has affected trade facilitation, it has caused delays and untold hardship not just on the importer or his agents, but also on other people who are plying this road. We are using this opportunity to appeal to the relevant agencies of government to please come and do the needful. The roads are definitely affecting our operations, containers bringing in empty containers have problems passing through the road, similarly, containers that have been cleared and due for warehouse or the markets are also experiencing challenges due to the condition of the roads.
Importers have lamented that customs Issue debit notes based on frivolous excuses…..The system is so complicated that, at every point in time we have to keep on perfecting our documentation and keep sensitizing the people because if there is no infraction there would not be debit notes. So we are calling on all stakeholders, right about now the risk management system is divided into two zones; Customs Zone and the Traders Zone, trader zone is where the initial clearing procedure is triggered, and if there no infraction within that zone, it would be so seamless and so fast that nobody needs to issue any debit note because everything is done correctly and rightly. But within the customs service we have to keep monitoring and checking documentation at all levels given our fallible nature as humans, so until we get to a time that we are sure that all revenue due to the government are collected, this is the result we want to achieve.
Recently revenue collected by your command increased hugely, what is responsible for this?I would rather attribute it to our compliance level, the compliance level of all the stakeholders in processing documents, if your documentation is done perfectly, there wouldn’t be any need for scrutiny and insisting on adding more value or carrying out re-assessment of the cargo, so I want to enjoin the stakeholders to always input correctly what they have in their container so that we would compare what we have in the document with what we see.
On exportation of containers, what do you have on ground?We have the good intention of establishing an examination bay for export containers, if you remember way back before the ports were concessioned, we had customs examination bays for imports and exports, but when the ports were being concessioned I don't know what happened, maybe the matter did not come to the minds of the actors involved in the concession contract. But yes, the service is lamenting seriously on this matter, but I can assure you that in no distant future, that examination bay would be provided, what we have now was constructively done, anytime there is an inspection, the government agencies involved in the examination mobilise and go to the sight at the same time and conduct the physical examination together and write their report at the same time.
What happens if one of the concerned agencies fails to show up for examination, does Customs have powers to make it compulsory?There are series of meetings that are attended by these various agencies, the collaboration also extended to terminal operators, the agents and the importers, the list of C' numbers are put together including the number of containers, so immediately a prospective importer makes his declaration and goes ahead to make payments, the list of the containers would be triggered and information based on the list of containers that were collected would be disseminated to the importer and their agent on the time and date that the examination would be conducted. Same information would be sent to the agencies that are also coming for the examination. We want to encourage our stakeholders because we don't want a situation whereby, during examination we start looking for the importer or his agents when the container is dropped for examination, we have been doing some sensitization and we would continue to do so. So we have been telling people that if you know you are not coming to join in the physical examination, you don't need to make payment, wait until you are ready to take your consignment before you make payment.