The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has urged the federal government to be very specific in issuing out import guidelines as it affects the whole total chain, affects importation, affects export, affects the total classified external trade tariffs as well as affects the whole system.
The National President of ANLCA, Chief Iju Tony Nwabunike who made the plea in an interview with Primetime Reporters at the ANLCA national secretariat in Lagos on Thursday observed that what actually made it worse was that each time government issues out those guidelines, it becomes a new thing to practitioners, who he said were always taken aback.
“If they (government) believe that the stakeholders who are the freight forwarders and customs brokers are one of the key factors in this industry, they should put us on the know so as to acquaint ourselves with the import guideline before they issue it out so that it will be easier for implementation. A situation they roll it out as if we are still in the militarized country where they bring in new laws without honouring us, the stakeholders, becomes very difficult”, he said.
While contending that the federal government should carry the freight forwarders along in policy formulation and implementation as to be part of it, he equally observed that there were too many government agencies present in the port adding that “not just that they are many, they segment themselves into units making it very impossible to actualize the 24 hours cargo clearance as well as the ease of doing business.”
He further said that “the federal government must look into it so as to find out the reason behind it. Are they distrusting themselves? Did they not believe in themselves that a particular government agency will divide itself into multiple units? What exactly do they want to achieve? Then again, who oversees the functions of the shipping companies and the terminal operators, their arbitrary charges, their taking laws into their hands and doing things as if it is a banana republic? These are the areas I want the federal government to actually look into seriously and possibly take a decision.”
“Corruption is at the highest level now at the Nigerian ports. Every single government agency that is coming here is coming with an ambition of being corrupt and enriching itself. So, if possible, they have to checkmate the influx of people coming here. Some government agencies are bribing their way to come to work at the ports. So, they should find out why, what is the reason and what are the benefits”, he added.
While calling on the federal government to take a critical look at the tariffs with the aim of determining what the challenges were, he queried, “why do people really import through the neighbouring countries because if you say we have Common External Tariffs, why are people importing in Benin Republic to bring it here when the tariff is supposed to be the same?”
The ANLCA President continued, “Government agencies doing interwoven jobs; if for example the customs has done examination on a cargo, why should the Police begin to talk about examination of the same cargo? If for example, NAFDAC has done examination, why should Port Health begin to talk about another examination? So, they should know that it is the same government that we are talking about.
“The customs brokers are the ones paying duty on behalf of their clients. Generation of duty is not done by customs, they are the custodians of those duty paid by us. So, some remunerations must go to the declarants so that it will be encouraging us to pay actual duty, encourage us to do the right thing and moreover, to generate more revenue. If for example they can do all these things in this decade, then we take it from there.”
Asking whether customs agents could be advocating for commission from duty collected annually by the Nigeria Customs Service when the Practitioners’ Operating Fee (POF) collection is about commencing, he said, “that is why we are about supporting it, our simple support about POF is that we want the federal government to generate funds so that they can train us, so that they can train the trainees, so that they can look into our welfare and insurance. Giving you an example, why must we pay container deposit if we have insurance in transit? Federal government must look into it and making sure that our problems on gridlock and problems of bottlenecks in the ports should be tackled through CRFFN or the associations that are existing.”
“So, our support for POF is all about the little remuneration that we are expecting from that. We are the declarants, we pay the duty, so, we should be taken care of”, he added.
Photo: ANLCA National President, Chief Iju Tony Nwaunike.
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