Why $3.2bn e-Customs project is a fraud
As part of efforts to tackle the myraid of problems in Nigeria’s freight forwarding sector, a novel advisory and conflict resolving firm, International Trade Advisory Services (ITAS) Limited, has been birthed by the founder of Business and Maritime West Africa magazine, Mr. Okey Ibeke.
The organization, which provides advisory services for freight forwarding companies, importers and exporters, seeks to help individuals and organizations curb the economic losses accruable from over-taxation, delays resulting to additional storage charges and demurrage, even as it provides training on the best approaches to handling shipments and ensuring compliance with import/export requirements.
At the company’s maiden press conference in Lagos yesterday, its Principal Consultant/ Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Okey Ibeke noted that some shippers suffer avoidable losses during import/export procedures as a result of unprofessional counsel from freight agents, sometimes ignorance, as well as overzealous government officials.
Okey Ibeke, however, argued that deliberate attempts to avoid correct duty payments would lead shippers into more fiscal crisis as the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) still had legal grounds to seize consignments seven years after they exit the ports.
He described the present state of cargo clearance at Nigerian ports as a complicated situation which needed a complete behavioural change by all stakeholders for a more seamless process.
“If Customs determine to enforce all trade regulations, the compliance level at ports would increase. However, we also have to understand that the pressure on Customs officers is also overwhelming. How do we expect a Customs officer to go about his job unbiased when he checks the first 10 containers and they all have infractions? We should also note that when Customs start to enforce the right things there will be congestion at ports,” Okey Ibeke said.
The company, which has highly trained and experienced professionals, provides assistance in interpretation of laws/regulations, product descriptions, harmonized tariff codes, valuation, rules of origin, post clearance audit and many more, for the resolution of all import/export compliance and regulatory issues for clients.
“We develop procedures, training modules and assessment programs to identify compliance defects, develop solutions: and coordinate improvement implementation. We provide professional resources and broad skill sets for clients such as technical specialists, licensed customs brokers, logistics experts, project managers, accountants, lawyers, freight forwarders, and auditors.”
“Our deep sense of commitment assures a win-win relationship with our clients and regulators in the international trade value chain. Our integrity and competence combine in qualifying us to deliver world class advisory services, backed by our long established relationship with Nigeria’s compliance, enforcement and regulatory agencies and the World Customs Organization,” the ITAS Principal Consultant said.
According to him, ITAS also helps manufacturers and shippers take advantage of free trade agreements such as ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), especially on products eligibility to meet the rule of origin requirements, identification of the specific rule of origin based on HS classification, among others.
Meanwhile, he assured that organization also recoups excessive taxes wrongfully collected by Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and other agencies from importers in the freight forwarding sector.
Speaking on the $3.2billion e-Customs project, Ibeke described the project as a fraud as he maintained that Customs had already attained a commendable degree of automation and the federal government has also acquired the much-needed scanners to expedite cargo examination.
Ibeke also expressed worry that the 20-year concession agreement shows the government’s flawed economic disposition as it is anchored on import dependence which will further disrupt the nation’s economy, whereas the focus should be on developing indigenous production and exports.