Importers and clearing agents have continued to frown at bottlenecks affecting clearing at the ports, noting that they are causing huge financial losses.
They specifically alleged that they passed through 26 multiple Customs units to clear cargo. This, according to the agents, creates a lot of problems in clearing procedures, thereby affecting the ease of doing business in the country. They added the hurdles at the ports also worsen the inflation.
The agents called for reform of the port operation with a view to reducing the number of Customs units involved in cargo clearing, alleging that the units are duplication of responsibilities and affect the turnaround time – a contravention of the Kyoto convention.
A customs agent, who preffered anonymity, said the checkpoints have made the clearing process difficult for importers as they spend more on clearing.
He added: “To clear a container in Lagos and other Nigerian seaports, you have to be mentally ready because you will go through all the over 26 customs units parting with money.”
The source listed the units as: Form M, PAAR, Unblocking, Abandoned, Examination/Report, DC Report, Releasing, DC Stamping, Gate and Exiting, Valuation, CPC Q and A (Query and Amendment), APM, DC Administration, DC Compliance, CAC Monitoring, CIU, Enforcement, Customs Police, OC Gate, Gate Officers and After Clearance Comes PCA.
He noted that four other customs units are located on the road, which he named as: FOU, Strike Force, Headquarters Squad and Customs Police. He said they are created to make clearing a hell for traders either on their way to their warehouses or agents traveling to importers’ destinations.
President, the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, who spoke to The Guardian, accused the NSC of exploiting people through the multiple customs units. It described it as one of the biggest corruption in the country.
Amiwero said the different units set up by the NCS across the country contravene the Kyoto Convention, which is aimed at facilitating trade by harmonising and simplifying customs procedures and practices.
He said this has affected the economy as many companies have closed down, calling for urgent reform of the service.Also, former President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Eugene Nweke lamented the level of delay in clearing procedure in Nigeria, which he said is partly responsible for the high prices of goods.
“When you delay me and my cargo attracts demurrage and storage charges, instead of spending about N200, 000 I will end up spending double. The owner of the cargo will pay. By the time he gets money from the bank to clear his cargo, he will go back to his book to adjust the prices of the goods to reflect the additional expenses.
“What that means is that a customer, who previously bought a unit of the commodity for N300, will now purchase it for N600. You create a situation that perpetually reduces the purchasing power of the masses.”
But the National Public Relations Officer, Deputy Comptroller, Joseph Attah, dismissed the allegations. He said proper clearing procedures must be adhered to, especially as importers make false declarations.
He said the various units have different responsibilities which are aimed at ensuring proper checks and that to avoid smuggling of harmful commodities into the country.
He said: “FOU is a statutory unit of the NSC, while the OC gate is the officer in charge of the gate. There is due process in clearing that must be followed. It is only those that do not comply with the rules that complain.
“Why are people complaining about going through the process? If an importer has done an honest documentation, correct declaration and paper payments they will not have issues with our units or offices.”
– The Guardian