11 April 2019

Nigeria: '15 Agencies, Task Force Units Intercept, Clear Cargoes At Ports'

Despite government's agenda on ease of doing business, the organised private sector (OPS), has said the practice of having multiple units of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), alongside other officially approved agencies, getting involved in cargo interception and clearance processes has become worrisome and negates productivity.

Besides, the OPS said undue delay in the issuance of Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) to importers was causing high demurrage charges both by shipping companies and the terminal operators, as well as making the PAAR administration process vulnerable to corrupt practices.

Specifically, the OPS identified units such as Comptroller General's Strike Force, Comptroller General's Task Force, Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Customs Intelligence Unit (CIU), Comptroller General's Monitoring Team, Enforcement unit, and CAC. Also, Resident Customs officers of the command, NDLEA, DSS, Ports Police, Nigeria Immigration Service, NPA, NIMASA, and Port Health are among the agencies and units that perform cargo examination before its release.

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), in a communiqué issued at the end of its council meeting tasked the Presidency to scale up its commitment to the Ease of Doing Business agenda to ensure a reduction in the operating cost for businesses in the economy.

"The LCCI is concerned over the role of maritime police in the clearance of cargo at Lagos Ports. There are reports of frequent obstruction of release of cargo by Maritime police even when the release has been duly authorised by statutory agencies charged with the responsibility of cargo examination.

"The involvement of maritime police in the cargo release process is a needless duplication; causing avoidable delays and huge demurrage payment by importers. Already the port police are involved in the examination and release of cargo at the ports. The frequent blocking of cargo by the maritime police is undermining the ease of doing business policy of the federal government," the chamber alleged.

Apart from the problem of poor access roads to the ports and the associated traffic gridlock, the chamber expressed concerns about the several units of the Nigeria Customs Service getting involved in cargo interception and clearance processes, therefore creating problems for importers and investors.

"The LCCI seeks the urgent intervention of the federal government to stop the disruption that the numerous customs units are creating for importers, within and outside the ports. This practice is a negation of the ease of doing business agenda of the government and it is hurting investors. Delays lead to huge demurrage paid by importers to shipping companies and terminal operators. It also affects the production cycle of manufacturers with implications for cost escalation," the communiqué read in part.

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