- SON collects unreturned samples worth N3million daily
Despite wide calls by Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) for compliance to trade processes at ports, freight forwarders who are compliant reportedly suffer more victimization and frivolous delays in dealings with Customs at Nigerian ports.
The National Chairman of NAGAFF 100% Compliance Team, Alhaji Ibrahim Tanko made this assertion during a media parley with journalists under the aegis of Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN) in Lagos, yesterday.
While lamenting that the level of compliance to legitimate trade processes by freight forwarders is below 30 percent, he expressed worry that Customs also contributes to the menace by frustrating compliant practitioners.
Tanko, however, encouraged freight agents who are victimized or extorted by Customs officials to channel their complaints to the Compliance Team as he assured that the group would explore all legal approaches to fight for such operators.
His words: “Those of us who choose to follow the right procedures and Customs processes are usually frustrated and delayed. At the end, Customs will run away but the delays can be very frustrating because we want to do the right thing. The heat is more on compliant freight forwarders because only 30 percent of practitioners are in this category. This is the most annoying aspect of compliance but we have to keep striving to attain 60% to 70% compliance and more”
“A lot of our containers are being seized by Customs, especially by the Federal Operations Units (FOU) and the CG’s Strikeforce. These challenges are primarily because freight forwarders aren’t compliant. FOU and Strikeforce pose the biggest challenges for freight forwarders but the underlying problem is that we aren’t compliant. Recall that we started pushing for 100 percent compliance several years ago, yet, we are still below 30 percent compliance level.”
Meanwhile, he expressed optimism that the recent introduction of scanners at seaports will enhance transparency, compliance and increase the number of containers evacuated at the nation’s ports daily.
“Most seaport terminals can’t handle more than 200 containers daily because they have to physically examine the containers. With scanners, we can exceed 1000 daily and this would speed up the process of cargo clearance and evacuation from the ports. So, there is need for more scanners at the ports,” Tanko argued.
He also described the return of Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) to the ports as another impending crisis with the agency yet to explain its new mode of operations.
“Freight agents are losing samples estimated to be worth N3million daily. Why must SON continue to keep samples? They can trace these cargoes to the warehouses of importers and make inspections there, but they don’t do that. I agree that there are lots of substandard products in Nigeria and I understand the importance of SON, but if they are going to continue intercepting containers on the roads, we won’t tolerate that.”
“SON are yet to explain why they must be at the ports because they really don’t have to be at the ports to achieve their mandate. What’s their relationship with their counterparts abroad? How have they managed the SONCAP to prevent substandard products from coming to Nigeria? These are questions they have to answer, but let’s be patient enough to see how they intend to operate now that they are back at the ports,” he said.
Also speaking at the meeting, the Western Zone Coordinator of NAGAFF Compliance Team, Dr. Fred Ajuzie advised Customs officials to show transparency and high-level compliance in their activities and freight agents will also comply.
“The truth is that the onus is on Customs to first be compliant and consequently freight forwarders will do the same. As it is said that one who comes into equity must come with clean hands, Customs should first show high level compliance,” Ajuzie posited.