SON: ANLCA warns of impeding crisis in Lagos ports over system collapse


…Says over N6 billion lost in demurrage over SONCAP delay

The Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has said that the Lagos ports comprising of Apapa and Tincan Island ports will in the next 24 hours to 72 hours be thrown into crisis following the inability of the freight forwarders to access the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) portal to process the SON Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP) certificate in the last two months to enable them clear goods at the ports.

The National Vice President of ANLCA, Dr. Kayode Farinto who issued the warning on Monday while interacting with members of the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) at the International Press Centre in Apapa, Lagos stated that there was total paralysis in the ports as a result of SON’s inability to rectify the problem with its system.

Farinto while noting that the importers and their agents had lost over N6 billion in demurrages as a result the system breakdown wondered why importers and their agents would be pay to pay for SON’s ineptitude.

He said, “You are likely to have a lot crisis in the industry in the next 24 hours or 72 hours. There is system collapse and it must be addressed. This happened in November, so you can imagine what our people are going through. We are still unable to get PAAR, if you eventually manage to get PAAR, you still have a minimum of three days to get that consignment out and when you manage to bring the consignment out, you have some warriors within Area B and Mile 2 who still actually scrutinize all the things that were done in the port.”

While explaining that there were three procedures for getting the certificate which he said was supposed to be done offshore, he however informed that where one could not get it, there was a small window here that was called ‘default’ or import permit which actually was put in place for the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria to ease their consignment clearance at the port.

“If you have your SONCAP, this is the procedure; you have what is called product certificate, after product certificate for Form M, you now have SON Code. It is the SON code that you will input into the customs’ portal for you to be able to get SONCAP. If you do not have it, Nigeria Customs Service will not treat such consignment and they will not issue you PAAR.

“So, when I made call to the DG, he did not pick, I now sent a text to him seeking to find out what is really happening to SONCAP. Having gotten a SONCAP, ideally, it is a document that has serial number. I am of the opinion that whenever such SON code or whatever number that is inputted into the system should synchronise with the Nigeria Customs Service system for them to see that you are actually having SONCAP for them to now issue you PAAR. This never happened.

“When I probed further to find out the challenges they were having because my members are complaining, they now referred me to one of their ICT personnel who said they were upgrading their system. Hearing the word upgrading, I was interested because I know that when you say you want to upgrade, I am of the opinion that you should have a seamless operation and since that time of upgrading, things have gone from bad to worse.

“In the last one and half week, people cannot get PAAR as a result of this problem. I now investigated to know what the problem is, it looks as if the system analyst that they brought, I don’t know, I am just assuming that they didn’t carry customs along or they brought in an expert who do not know much about the software. It has gotten to a level now that it is unbearable because my members are paying demurrage. In the last one and half week, we cannot get PAAR particularly if the consignment is regulated by SON. This is barbaric and it is unfortunate that you journalists are not saying anything and no leader is saying anything about it in the industry. Does it mean we are not aware or not?” he queried.

Farinto who is also a members of the Governing Council of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), further said, “On Thursday, I sent a message to DG SON expressing my hope that this thing will be resolved under 24 hours if not I will go to the press and up till now, it is still stalemate, people cannot get PAAR as I talk to you now particularly SON regulated item and that is why I said let us make noise so that people will know the problem.

“If this continues, I personally will not hesitate to encourage freight forwarders to go to court. This is because we are going to lose billions of naira as a result of this problem that is not the agents’ fault and don’t forget that most of us take this bill of lading before the arrival of the vessel to process documents. If you are unable to process PAAR, then the importer starts telling you that you are to pay demurrage. And I think the Nigeria Customs Service should also come up to give us a solution to this problem because everywhere in the whole world, Customs Service is always the lead agency. If the lead agency cannot tell us a solution, then I think we have a problem.”

On solution to the present problem, he submitted that if SON was unable to come up with or synchronise its system with customs portal for customs to issue PAAR, it must agree with the Nigeria Customs Service that every regulated item be allowed to get to the consignees’ warehouse where it would now send its officers to conduct their examination.

“How reliable is this process? From my investigation, it can be 50-50 but we cannot have a stalemate because we already have a little congestion in the port, we cannot have system collapse because SON regulated products that are lying in the port is over 35%. Do we now look the other way and say because SON is having problem, freight forwarders should continue suffering from this problem? The answer is no!” he added.

When contacted for its response, the personnel in charge of SONCAP related matters at SON was not available for comments and could not be immediately reached on phone.

Photo: ANLCA National Vice President, Dr. Kayode Farinto.

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