Customs/SON Tango Over Joint Cargo Examination At Ports

• Report Customs to VP, if they fail to invite you for examination of cargoes-----LCCI


Despite Federal Government’s directive that the Nigeria Customs Service must invite the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) for the daily cargo examination at the various terminals in the ports, the directive has been largely disobeyed.

This has reportedly led officials of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria to continually lay ambush for containers that have already being cleared out of the port and released by the Customs.

Raising alarm about the incessant stoppage of containers on the highways, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) expressed shock at the development.

The LCCI through its Director GENERAL; Mr Muda Yusuf said It is unprofessional for the operatives of SON to be intercepting containers on the highways on account of some fees or charges that have not been settled by importers.

It also argued that “where there were outstanding charges to be paid to SON or issues about SONCAP compliance, such matters should be dealt with before the container leaves the port”.

But, justifying its action, SON had alleged that the Nigeria Customs Service has failed to invite its personnel for examination of containers, hence its decision to intercept container after been released at the port.

An official however told our correspondent that, SON has been permanently shut out of the statutory cargo examination. He equally denied that SON had seized any container after inspection on the highways

But, putting up  a defence,  the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of Apapa Command of Customs; Nkeiruka Nwaala, a Deputy Superintendent of Customs, said the service cannot invite the Standard Organization of Nigeria for cargo examination, because SON is  not domiciled in the ports.

She told one of our correspondents last week in Lagos that inviting SON for cargo explanation in the port is like inviting National Security Adviser (NSA) for cargo examination.

Nwaala however said that for cargoes s that require the Standards Organisation of Nigeria Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP) certificate, the Nigeria Customs Service will always demand that from importers, even before duties on the cargos are collected.

She said: “SON is not domiciled in the port, its just like saying that items that require end-user and then you say that the officer of the National Security Adviser (NSA) that customs should be inviting them”

“If they (importers) have any document they are supposed to provide from such before cargo examination, they go to SON on their own, it has nothing to do with Customs. If they are importing items that require SON certification, they go on their own to get the certification. For us customs, those items that requires from SON we don’t need to write SON;  it is only when you come for clearance we request, we are not regulating SON, neither are we working with SON”.

Explaining further the Apapa customs image maker said that the work of SON is just to issue certification to imports that require such.

“So if you don’t have it (certification), we will send you back to SON. So the work of SON is not about examination, it is a certification. So customs cannot be inviting SON; for what? It is a certification and documentary thing”, she insisted.

According to her, “But if for any reason SON now have an import that they suspect the certification process or anything, all they need to do is to send a message via the NICIS 2 platform and notify that they have interest in a container that is it”

“If an importer or his agent imported an item that requires SONCAP, we all have a list of items that require SONCAP we only ask the importer to bring the certificate, they are part of the documents you must provide”, she explained.

She also said that SON can indicate interest through the Nigeria Customs Integrated Information System (NICIS 2) if there is any container they are interested in.

“If you have that kind of import, you know that even before you come you should have gotten the certification because the system cannot process it without the end user certificate the same with the system cannot process any item that requires SONCAP without the certificate, even before you pay duty. Those are documentary evidences that are required. So the system is so configured that if any import requires end user certificate, you can’t clear it; likewise anyone that requires SONCAP. SON is connected to the customs NICIS 2 platform” ,she concluded

But, apparently shocked at the justification that was put up by the Customs, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has advised the Standard Organization of Nigeria to report the Nigeria Customs Service to the Vice President, if the service fails to invite them for examination of cargoes at seaport.

The Director General of LCCI said interception of containers on the road will affect ease of doing business; he urged the organization to report the NCS to the Vice President who is in charge of ease of doing business at the seaport.

He told Shipping Position Daily that:  “Our view is that if they (SON) continue to intercept containers; just as we have with the customs, it won’t be good for ease of doing business, we are not saying that business should not comply with whatever regulations, but there are better ways of ensuring compliance and sanctions rather than going to ambush containers on the road”.

“If Customs have not been inviting them, then they should take it up with customs, the rule is that if there is any regulated product;  if it affects NAFDAC, customs should invite NAFDAC, if it affects SON, then customs should invite SON”

“So if they are not doing that, then they should engage the Customs more and escalate it possibly to the office of the Vice President”, he advised.

“It is unprofessional for the operatives of SON to be intercepting containers on the highways on account of some fees or charges that have not been settled by importers,” LCCI said.