31 August 2012

Nigeria: 'How to Tackle Corruption in the Ports'

To help tackle the corruption in the nation's seaports, the Federal Government has been called upon to grant a percentage of all collected revenue on duty on her behalf to licensed customs agents.

The move, if implemented is seen in some quarters, has been identified as capable of addressing the root cause of bribery and corruption in the seaports, airports and international borders across the country.

A frontline freight forwarder and Chief Executive Officer of Shiba Services Limited, Mr. Babatunde Shittu, speaking in Lagos, argued that corruption would be greatly reduced if government gives agents certain percentage of revenue collected.

Shittu spoke on the sideline of an executive course organised by the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), and explained that such action would reduce the temptation for clearing agents to cut corners on behalf of importers, exporters and other port users.

"Like I mentioned earlier, for every duty or tax collected for the government and I want to widen it, not only the government, even the money collected on behalf of terminal operators, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), they are supposed to give agents a percentage. This is because we are collecting these monies for them", he said.

Reminded that agents are paid by their principals and that his demand would be asking for too much, he pointed out that what they get from their importers is for services they have rendered and stressed that without them making honest declaration, government would continue to lose revenue.

Shittu argued that no agent would want to cut corner if he knows that he would get a percentage of every job handled.

His words: "Take for example, if I handle a job which has duty of say N100 million and I know that I will get, let's say, five per cent of that amount which is N5 million, why should I want to cut corners for the importer?"

He flayed the domination of the freight forwarding business by foreigners, and pointed out that it was because Nigerian operators lacked technical knowledge.

According to him, "most Nigerian operators limit themselves to clearing and forwarding aspect of the business. Therefore, they miss the bigger picture where the big money is. Our international partners sometimes find it difficult to use the facilities of the local agents because they believe that they are not well equipped."

He, however, stressed that CRFFN has started the training of registered practitioners as the first step to empowering them with the necessary knowledge to enable them compete effectively with their foreign counterparts.

Shittu explained that CRFFN has started the training for chief executive officers of all the registered freight forwarding companies, at the end of which it would then be extended to staff of these companies. "Now we are more equipped and more empowered through the training", he added.

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