Stakeholders Allege Gratifications Behind SON’s Lobby To Return To Seaports

Stakeholders in the nation’s maritime Industry have alleged that the quest for the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to return to the seaports is borne out of the organization desire to benefit from gifts and gratifications given to agencies in the port.

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The Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has been pushing for a return to the seaport following its eviction from the port. Its Director General, Malam Farouk Salim recently urged the Federal Government to allow the agency return to the nation’s ports. He explained that the move would help the organisation to effectively check influx of substandard products into the country as trading progresses under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The DG’s call is coming after almost a decade after the eviction of several government agencies from the ports, in what the then-minister of Finance; Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as the need to fast-track port processes at a time the ports were battling congestion, delays in cargo clearing.

However, reacting to the development, some freight forwarders in the nation’s maritime industry alleged that the push to return SON to the seaport will further increase the level of corruption and jeopardize the ease of doing business initiative of the federal government.

Some of the freight forwarders alleged that officers of SON have been pushing to return to the port in order for them to be partakers of the gifts and gratifications that come along with being in the port. This is even as others insist that their return will not be possible, except if the National Assembly changes the Act which establishes the SON.

Speaking to our correspondent, Mr. Adaramodu Boluwatife, a customs licensed agent at the PTML Command said “why are they pushing for return back to the seaport, it means there is something they are benefiting when they were in the port that they can benefit from again, are you telling me that since they left the port, they have not been able to carry out their duties”.

“We are still looking for how to reduce the number of agencies at the port and they are still pushing for a return. As journalist, you must investigate why they want to return, what is that thing in the port, that is making all of them fighting to be in the port, we know some of them have become supermarkets owners as a result of collecting samples of products that come into the country without returning it back. These are some of the reasons, what else are they fighting for, human contacts breed corruption, and as long as we continue to allow human interface, it will be difficult to reduce corruption in the port.

“Let’s have a digitized port, where all things are done electronically, we can’t keep living in the old era, for me I will not support their return to port, I will even ask that the government should do all its best to reduce the number of the agencies we have presently at the port”, he said.

Speaking also, the National Coordinator of the Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders Importers and Exporters Coalition (SNFFIEC) Dr. Osita Chukwu, also kicked against the return why stating that the organization can only return if the law is amended, he noted that the push for SON to return to the seaport is not in line with the Act that established the organization.

According to him, “it’s not in line with the establishment of SON; except otherwise they want to do what is called abracadabra in law, SON cannot be in the port, SON should be in the office just like other agencies, there is no way SON can come back to the port except they go to the National Assembly to amend the Act, if they don’t amend the law they can’t come, every movement of every agencies is based on the Act or the amendment of the law”, he stated.

Also speaking the Vice President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr. Kayode Farinto, however stated that there may be need to have a rethink regarding the exit of SON from the port.

According to him, the absence of the SON at the port has led to influx of substandard goods in the country, he however singled out Tin Can Customs command as one of the few Customs command that don’t joke with SON alert.

In his words: “It is an issue that I am studying and honestly I think it’s an issue I believe we need to have a rethink, you see whether SON is in the port or not in the port, if we have attitudinal change, it won’t be an issue, if all the agencies work hand-in-hand, we will not have the issue of substandard goods in the country, because we always have one challenge or the other, because we have heard where even SON will alert goods and will alleged that such goods have been released, and I know that Customs in some port don’t play with SON alert, an example is Tin Can Customs Command, the Comptroller has warned his officers that on no occasion should they release any goods on SON alert, so for Tin Can I know they don’t joke with SON alert, so I am still studying it, and very soon I will give my verdict”, he said

On his part the founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Boniface Anioebonam stated that it is not SON that is clamoring for its return, but that freight forwarders want them return to the seaport.

He said, “Standards Organization of Nigeria is not clamoring to come back to the port, it is the freight forwarders that are asking for their return to the port. It is not about them, it is about us, we are the one doing the business and we are not happy, our job is to move cargoes out of Customs control to the owner’s warehouse and on the road, these containers are picked up and our jobs are not concluded and we lose our investment in terms of money

“Some of us who finance our transactions and no importer will pay you unless you deliver the cargo to his warehouse, if you have not gotten there the contract is not finished, so other than this why not; NAFDAC is in the port, NDLEA is in the port why not standard organization , they even have a larger scope of assignment to do in terms of quality assurance, so I don’t know the politics that is being added to what they are doing”.