Following the recent directive by the federal government on the re-introduction of the Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) to check the rising insecurity in the country, the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has hailed the federal government over the decision even as it called for a law to back up the policy.
The National President of NAGAFF, Dr. Increase Uche who made the position of the association on the re-introduction of CTN known in an interview with our correspondent in Lagos recently, observed that the directive was in order adding that every well-meaning Nigerian, particularly, operators in the logistics supply chain as well as the operators at the seaports and airports would always support the CTN.
Tracing the background of the CTN, Uche recalled that the CTN was initially introduced in 2009 by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) but had to be dropped sometime in 2011 due to some arguments and attacks from some quarters and was later reintroduced in 2015/2016 up to 2017 by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council.
According to him, “The idea of CTN, it is a document that provides the information requirement on every shipment to especially, import dependent countries like Nigeria. The CTN contains features like cargo description, the cost of the cargo, the origin, the manufacturers’ details, the tariff classification and others. So, it is a complete document that provides whole information needed to describe the features of any cargo.
“In fact, in 2009 when it was initially introduced, it served as a standard. Most times if there are arguments or conflict in cargo clearance between the importer and the customs, what the Nigeria Customs Service will always require from you is the CTN and with that CTN, every other thing hidden could be made manifest. There was no iota of deceit or concealment, it gives the proper information.
“So, it was serving a very good purpose as at that time but unfortunately, because of the corruption in the system, those that were saddled with the responsibility of protecting government revenue started thwarting the procedure, arguments started because shipping lines were made to ensure that the CTN numbers were inscribed on the bill of lading and on all the import documents. So, it was giving them problem that they were finding it difficult to under-declare cargoes loaded in their vessels.
“So, shipping companies too and terminal operators saw the use of that CTN as a threat such that those areas that they tend to hide in order to defraud the government of revenue or levies they are supposed to pay on the tonnage of a given vessel. So, all the operators ganged up because they know what they were losing because with the CTN, you cannot hide any information.”
He added that the planned re-introduction of the CTN in 2015/2016 by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council did not see the light of the day even though an office was provided for them at the Nigerian Shippers’ Council headquarters in Lagos as according to him, “how the whole thing ceased completely again was as a result of the industry operators that did not want those their cutting of corners to be exposed.”
“I think, what government has done now was the right thing. It has seen CTN as trade facilitation tool because with it now, some of the problems inherent in cargo clearance will now be ameliorated. PAAR as it is today wasn’t what we bargained for in 2013 when we fought to ensure that the service providers did not get their contracts renewed. With the collaboration of freight forwarders and the customs, we had to return back the job of Destination Inspection to the Nigeria Customs Service with the hope that PAAR will become a final document. And why PAAR is still having this problem is that once a PAAR is issued and it becomes a subject of queries, multiple alerts will now be placed on cargo.
“The only remedy that we envisage as at today is the re-introduction of that CTN because with the CTN, the mutilation of the bill of lading will no longer be there. The falsification of final invoices will no longer be there, the wrong description of cargo will be eliminated completely and some of those vices where the shippers hide information will now be exposed. I think that is the best way to go for now so that once you attach your CTN in your final shipping documents and submit it through your bank to the customs for the issuance of PAAR and the PAAR is issued; there shouldn’t be any query anymore.
“One is that it is going to save us time, it is going to minimize delays at the ports, congestion will be reduced and government revenue will increase. There are so many benefits, it is only for government to summon that courage now that they have given their go ahead. Government has given their support and they have given this thing back to the Shippers’ Council and that is the only body that can manage the CTN and get the required result”, he noted
The NAGAFF boss however called on all the industry practitioners who are patriotic to the course of developing the port industry and the economy to key into the project hoping that “with support and lack of sabotage, there is no way CTN will not impact positively and then help to reduce the issue of non-compliance to trade rules.”
On whether the CTN as to be reintroduced will not go the way of the previous exercise, he said, “During that period, it was just a mere pronouncement, government was not firm. We need a law to back it up. What we need is to make it compulsory. If CTN is going to be part of the final shipping documents, then government must be firm.
“In the clearance procedure, it should be added among the documents and it should be compulsory. Every manifest must have the CTN number on each and every bill of lading in that manifest. Then the shipping lines plying the Nigerian seaports, even the airports must be made to ensure that their CTN number is inscribed on all the documents. Once it becomes compulsory that CTN must be part of the final documents for cargo clearance or for bringing in of any cargo; that is all. The only thing is for the customs to ensure enforcement and every other agency of government must key in.”
Photo: The National President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, Dr. Increase Uche.
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