A cross section of stakeholders at the NPA 2nd Quarterly stakeholders’ meeting in Lagos last week
• Customs Blame Importers, Freight Forwarders
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has alleged that the Nigeria Customs Service is a major clog in the wheel of implementation and success of the Executive Order on the Ease of Doing Business at the port issued in May 2017 by the Presidency, saying that most Customs officers sent to carry out cargo examination at the port are fraudulent.
This allegation was made by the Managing Director of the NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman at its 2nd Quarterly Stakeholders Meeting which held in Apapa last week.
Hadiza who was represented at the meeting by the Executive Director Marine and Operations, Dr. Sekonte Davies queried the presence of customs officers at port gate. She urged the customs commands to always send credible officers to carry out examination of containers so as to prevent multiple examinations.
She said that after cargoes have been dully-examined at the examination bay, customs officers are not expected to lay siege at the port gate as this is against the ease of doing business order.
An Assistant Controller of customs in charge of ease of doing business at Apapa Customs Command, Yahaya Idris, had shifted the blame on importers and freight forwarders saying that both are not honest in making their declarations. According to him, most of the fast track cargoes coming out of the ports are liable, because some of them are finished products, but they are not supposed to be finished products.
Presently, he said the command is having an ongoing investigation of 10 containers at the enforcement unit, he said that instead of the importer declaring the containers as tires and pay duty, he declared it as paperboard to attract five percent duty.
The NPA boss however insisted that “The presence of customs at the port gate is creating problems, it is against the executive order of the presidency, and the executive order is very clear”.
She told the customs Assistant Controller that: “What you have been able to establish here is that your staff you sent to the examination are fraudulent, they are not doing their job and this is why you have to cross check at the gate again, I will suggest to you that you should send credible people to the terminals where examinations are conducted”.
The customs representative however argued that it was not stipulated in the ease of doing business order that customs should not stay at the port gate.
“In the executive order, there is no where it is stated that customs should not stay at the gate, the only thing that the executive order says in article 23 and 24 was that all examination agencies should fuse together in a place called joint examination area, this is to be spearheaded by customs; SON, NAFDAC, NESREA, Anti-robbery squad and Plant Quarantine”
“Nobody examines containers at the gate, what we do is to cross- check documents, bear it in mind that Apapa customs does not do examination alone, we have some containers called fast track, we have some containers going to the hinterland and ICD in Kaduna and Kano” “When we talk about the ease of doing business, the first set of problems we are having is the importer, when you make honest declaration, you have no problem. Secondly, the freight forwarders themselves are not also honest”, he alleged.