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False declaration persists at ports

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False declaration persists at ports

The Federal Government is still losing billions of naira at the seaports to importers and customs agents who have been going through the back doors with fake documents to clear their cargoes. BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports

 

Despite the establishment of Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) and Automated System for Customs Data plus, plus (ASYCUDA++) designed to facilitate trade and block revenue loss at the ports and borders, one of the biggest challenges facing Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is lack of compliance by importers and agents.

Non-compliance, according to Customs Comptroller General, Col Hameed Ali (rtd), has become the biggest problem facing the service at the ports as customs and agents are exploiting the loopholes in the platforms to defraud the government.

It was learnt that PAAR, a cargo clearance platform established by NCS to enhance effective clearance procedure of imported goods within the shortest time at Nigerian ports, had been deterring the smooth flow of trade, which it ought to promote. According to a report by Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on PAAR, the persistent delays in clearance of cargo at the Lagos ports had become a major cause for concern for the business community.

The chamber said that PAAR, managed by the Nigeria Customs, had been burdened with capacity challenges. It noted: “The PAAR, which was originally programmed to be issued within six hours now takes over a week in most cases before it is released. Without the issuance of PAAR, other cargo clearance procedures cannot progress.”

 

Counterfeiting

 

Ali noted that there was high rate of falsified documents at the ports, under-invoicing and false declaration, adding that clearing agents were culprits of these illicit acts.

 

The comptroller general revealed that less than five per cent of importers processed their clearing documents genuinely. Ali said: “Out of 100 containers imported into the country, there is hardly 10 containers with genuine declaration. For any one Indian that is there, 10 Nigerians must support him because we do not love our own country.

“You cannot go to their country and do this, but in Nigeria, anybody can come and cheat us.”

 

Fast track abuse

 

He said that many of the goods cleared at the ports through fast- tracking arrangement were causing security risk to the country and its economy. Ali said that more than 36 containerised cargoes were missing at the nation’s seaports over abuse of its fast track scheme.

 

 

He disclosed during an interactive evening session of the 45th Annual General Meeting of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) in Lagos, that NCS had created a platform to ensure that all impediments to businesses in Nigeria were removed.

 

He said: “I can tell you categorically that less than five per cent of our importers processed their documents genuinely at the ports currently we have discovered this through our investigations.”

 

Security risk

For instance, he explained that the recent 1,100 pump action guns seized at the port showed wash hand basins in its

Form M document until 100 per cent physical examination revealed there were ammunitions in the consignment. In 2017 alone, the service’s anti-smuggling unit, Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, Lunit, arrested 179 smugglers and recovered N5.95billion from unscrupulous agents and importers.

 

Customs’ Comptroller, Mohammed Uba, said that N1.95billion was realised from duty payments and demand notices on general goods that tried to beat the system through wrong classification of cargoes, transfer of value and shortchange in duty payment at seaports and border stations.

He said that smugglers were now using various methods to smuggle contraband to the country.

The spokesman of the service Joseph Attah, a deputy comptroller, explained that NCS had been using its PAAR for speedy clearance of goods by importers. He said the Comptroller-General had recently commissioned the renovated and re-equipped PAAR ruling center. Attah said: “This allows importers with proven integrity to take their cargo straight to their premises where examination will be conducted with a view to collecting duty.

“We have adopted it and have been using it; meaning that importers and their agents make appropriate declaration, documentation and finalise all processes before the arrival of the cargo.”

The spokesman said the service would actively partner with the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council, the office that is driving the ease of doing business projects, to ensure that every impediments to businesses in Nigerian ports was removed.

 

Last line

 

There is need for the Federal Government to assist NCS to block revenue loopholes at the ports, airports and borders. Also the NCS need to rid the ports of corrupt officials.

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