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Customs, licenced agents differ on trade facilitation

ACG Eporwei Edike being decorated by NAGAFF Founder, Chief  Boniface Aniebonam during the ACG’s visit to the association
While licenced
customs agents and brokers think that operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service
have not done much in facilitating trade, the customs service on its part
demands honest declaration to support trade facilitation efforts.

This concern
was raised at a stakeholders meeting held at the secretariat of the National
Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders(NAGAFF) while the
Assistant Comptroller-General, Zone ‘A’, Eporwei Edike paid a courtesy visit to
the association.

Members of
the association had argued that the customs service emphasized more on revenue
collection over efforts to facilitate trade that would bring out the revenue.

Speaking one
after the other, the NAGAFF members said for a long time they had faced
challenges of faulty scanners at the ports, which resulted in delays resulting
from full physical examination of containers.

ACG Edike said the freight forwarders must play by the rule of ‘honest
declaration’ for trade to be facilitated completely to the benefit of all

“We can only
facilitate trade to the extent that you permit us, by reason of your declaration
because if we find out dishonesty in your declaration, we will issue you a
Debit Note.

“So, we are
saying ‘compliance.’ We cannot sacrifice national security for trade facilitation.

“However, you
would recall that it was in the spirit of trade facilitation that I transferred
40,000 containers out to other areas while I was the Customs Area Controller in
Apapa,” Edike said.

He promised
that as part of efforts in trade facilitation, the challenges of faulty
scanners at the ports would be fixed soon, considering talks by the service
with the finance minister.

On the issue
of lane selection for containers, the ACG said the selection of lane for
containers was done by a machine and not influenced by anybody.

He explained
that the machine selected a particular lane for a container after it must have
profiled the documentation by an importer or agent to verify compliance level.

He encouraged
the freight forwarders not to accept any form of intimidation from officers if
they were sure that they were doing the right thing.

Edike also urged
them not to pay any ‘registration fee’ allegedly being demanded by some
officers for document processing.

He made clear
that the federal task-force on the highways would remain because of their
success stories that have saved government revenue loss and checked the
proliferation of arms and ammunition into society.

While the
customs service said it didn’t want to be dragged into association politics on
matters of who should be issued a customs licence, the Founder of NAGAFF, Chief
Boniface Aniebonam, said the licence was best issued to individuals and not
corporate organisations.

argued that the issue of compliance as demanded by the customs service was
better managed with an individual.

membership cuts across corporate and individual practitioners, but the truth is,
customs needs to deal with the individual who is a professional, not the
corporate body.
“The problem
of the customs service today is compliance, and it is the individual that needs
to comply,” Aniebonam said.

founder said that granting licence to only corporate organisations negated
everything they had tried to do, because corporate licences gave room for
foreigners to operate as customs agents.

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