MAAG recalls that about 7 Months ago the service providers reluctantly and hurriedly handed over the destination inspection scheme to the Nigeria Customs Service with inadequate preparation. As was the practice then for the service provider to achieve a daily cargo handling performance indicator operated on an internal MOU with the NCS and APMT for a daily loading of 400 containers on top of trucks designated for scanning operation at the Apapa scanning site so as to mitigate congestion, but the set target never worked, as the operators/service providers operated below 220 container loaded for scanning operations per day.
This singular act had it’s adverse effect on the innocent shippers and customs agents who had genuinely paid scan fee but had to wait the extra days on the account of this short fall and it’s associated delays and at the end they were compelled to pay for the inefficiency of the terminal operators or the deficiency of the services providers.
The most disturbing operation presently is the recorded daily performance figure of the Nigeria Customs Service with the advent of PAAR regime. Under the prevailing PAAR regime the Nigeria Customs Service can only scan between 90 – 120 Boxes daily, which by implication represents over 100% decline in daily operational targets and performance. WHY?.
It was discovered that almost all documents application for provisional release are manually routed to physical examination, while the terminal operators on the other hand now use an examination bay that is not only sub-standard but highly limited in positioned cargo space, thereby causing delays. Notably, the root cause of hinderances to the fluidity of cargo clearance in the custom port is the rampant and persistent server/portal break down with its associated delays. Presently man-hour (work time) is wasted while waiting for the portal/server to come up on daily basis. Capturing and releasing of examined imports takes at times an average of 4 days. This is because presently the Customs’ server installed and managed by Inter Switch/Webb Fontaine operationally picks up in the early hours of the morning and late hours of the evening, thereby compelling officers to work the extra hours so as to reduce the backlog.
From data communicated, over 1000 Boxes are already routed for physical examination, a situation that compound congestion in the terminal. It is now a general development, including the eastern ports of Onne.
However, MAAG recalls that the earlier technical hitches encountered following the PAAR take off/implementation was plotted against by the perceived non adequate support and the inactions of the supervisory ministry. It was expected that the Finance Ministry should have prevailed on the contracted service providers to prepare their graduated one year strategic milestone transition/handover plan as contained in the terms of contract, which was the case during the migration from pre-shipment inspection scheme to destination inspection scheme, over 7 years ago.
Surprisingly, it appeared that the supervisory ministry was originally in favour of the continuity of destination inspection scheme by the service providers canvassing for contract extension. This posture indeed created room for the respective service providers to intensify their lobbying to stay on. This position also seems to have promoted an eternal war of attrition (that is a noticeable divided position on contract extension or customs take over) between the Finance Ministry and the Customs Management.
MAAG observed at that point that as the service providers jostled for contract extension, an army of occupation/propaganda specialists where recruited and deployed to be part of the lobby with a heightened propaganda to a point of projecting the Nigeria Customs Service as “not being properly trained and as such are not capable to take over the destination inspection
scheme from them”!
MAAG also noticed that, within this period, there was hurried hand over by the service provider to the Nigeria Customs Service, leading to the trapping of over 99,000 Forms M in the transmission tool/mechanism of the service providers/Customs which ought not to be so if there was a properly structured milestone transition plan.
These situations compelled the Nigeria Customs Service to resort to the introduction of a ‘temporary provisional release application’ in order to tackle and cushion the effects of the backlog of the trapped Forms M. This to a large extent slowed down the smooth take off of the PAAR regime at inception!
The recent press release by the Nigeria Customs shows that at the ‘Customs ruling centre’ over 58,310 PAAR has been uploaded from the banks while 43,252 PAAR has been generated with a promise to surpass a monthly PAAR issuance of 20,000 PAAR in the days ahead and that all hands are on deck in pursuance to this objective.
Unfortunately, MAAG equally noted that, the presence of non compliance to rule of engagement and false declaration by the
importers/shippers has not helped issues. The problem of under declaration, under valuation of imports, concealments, false classification with an intent to cheat persisted. This lead to series of discrepancies in terms of arriving at a product reasonable transaction value.
MAAG therefore sees being realistic as crucial as there seems to be some strategic pit falls plotted against the PAAR for a successful take off, for the mere quest to prove to the government in the centre that the Nigeria Customs Service lacked the capacity to manage the destination inspection scheme with its lofty PAAR application. One of such pit-falls can be likened to the persistent break down of the server/portal managed by Inter Switch/Web Fontaine being rampant under the PAAR regime, even the transmission of generated PAAR to the designated outlets including the shippers bank suffered delay as a result of incessant break downs.
At this point therefore, it became obvious to note that findings reveals the former service providers are unrelenting in their intensified scheming/lobbying efforts to reclaim their continuous stay to handling the destination inspection scheme. They engaged propaganda merchants who are busy flooding the Finance Ministry and Presidency with concocted petitions on flimsy and reconcilable trade disputes, using the press to strengthened their propaganda and selfish quest, forgetting so soon that even during the well planned migration from pre-shipment inspection scheme to destination inspection scheme it was greeted with challenges and teething problems that lasted for over one year, before full integration!
Under the prevailing experiment and integration period of PAAR application regime, MAAG therefore, wishes to call on ALL well meaning Nigerians, shippers/freight forwarders to support and bear with the Nigeria Customs Service in its quest to evolving and ensuring a much more transparent cargo clearance application with the capacity to facilitate trade. The collection of 1% CISS, which runs into hundreds of millions of dollars per annum (and happens to be the center and crux of all these agitations/sponsored petitions) will be domiciled with our government as against being shipped to foreign private accounts. This will be a good pointer towards patriotism on the path of the Nigeria Customs Service!!!
Alhassan A. Dantata
Maritime Advocacy and Action Group.