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Customs explains reasons foreign clearing agents flood ports

Posted  May 14, 2018

The customs controller in charge of the Apapa Area
Command, Compt. Jibrin Musa, has disclosed that a large number of foreign
nationals have been operating as customs agents because they own companies and
had been issued with self-clearance licenses as supported by the government’s
Ease of Doing Business policy.

Musa said this while speaking with executives of the
Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) in his office.

He explained that the essence of Ease of Doing
Business policy of the Federal Government is to also make the environment
friendly and convenient for investors as Nigeria is competing for foreign
direct investment with other countries.

He made clear that the customs do not grant clearing
license to foreigners, but it however has provisions in its laws for self-clearance
for established companies.
Importantly too, licensed customs agents have over the years
called for indigenization of the clearance of cargoes at Nigerian Ports.

Musa explained that, “There have been talks
about foreigners around the customs house. In our import and export activities,
we are dealing with both Nigerians and Non-Nigerians, and most of the
industries. We as a nation have licensed them, some of the companies that
operate in Nigeria are owned by foreigners, we have assembly plants for Keke
Napep and car assembly companies owned largely by foreigners.

“The customs service does not license foreigners as a
clearing agent, but they license companies and they grant self-clearance to
such companies, any a company can be given self-clearance, it is now the
prerogative of such company to decide on whom they send to process customs

“If a company is owned by a foreigner and the clearing
outfit of that company has foreigners, definitely you cannot rule out seeing a
foreigner following up an entry, 
is not our prerogative to tell them not to come forward.”
The customs boss added that the law also has a provision for an
importer to hire a custom agent to help him clear a consignment, therefore the
owner of the consignment may be working from behind while he contracted the
responsibility to the clearing agent.

Speaking on the ongoing construction of wharf road leading to
Lagos port, Compt Musa assured that the completion of the road would lead to
increase in economic activity for the country.

He added that the command now conducts joint cargo examination
with other relevant government agencies and they also issue a joint report for
release of cargoes. 

He said that with the implementation of the Customs Information
Integration System (NICIIS) 2, it is no longer cumbersome for importers to get
release their consignment from the port. 

“In no distant time, the Apapa road would have been done
and this would translate into vibrancy of the economy and economic activities
coming out of Apapa. By the time it is finished, Apapa would bounce back.

2 intended to encourage compliance to government fiscal policies; it is also
for every stakeholder to be on the same platform with customs, to embrace full

“We are confidence that with the implementation of NICIIS2,
we would work better, when it is time for examination, we go to the exam bay
together with all concerned agencies, after this, everybody comes back to the
system, once the report is issued jointly, it makes it easy for the releasing
officer to raise TDO to the terminal operators.”

Speaking earlier, President of MARAN, Mr. Anya Njoku stressed
the need for customs to preserve the jobs of Nigerian clearing agents noting
that foreigners have taken over their jobs.

Njoku also mentioned the need for customs service to issue
clearing licenses to individuals and not corporate bodies. According to him, it
is the corporate bodies that perpetrate most of the crimes in the clearance

“This is where most of the problems are emanating from, if
you look at the form C30, we are looking at individual declarant and not
cooperate declarants, it is that corperate declarant that we are having issues
with and we are investigation who they are, this is why we say, we want to know
who the declarants are.

“If you issue customs license to a company, the foreigners
come here and register a company, he is the managing director, but the chairman
would be a Nigerian, meanwhile the managing director is the one taking
decisions, signing money taking money away, so let the declarant not be a
corporate entity, let it be an individual so that we would know those who are
criminals and hiding under corporate license.” 

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