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Trade Talks: Shippers’ Council, SON charge stakeholders on best practices

      …As stakeholders kick over cumbersome procedures at SON
The Nigerian Shippers’ Council in collaboration with
the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) on Thursday urged the trading
public including importers, customs licensed agents and other key stakeholders
to ensure they carry on their business operations with integrity.

Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council,
Barr. Hassan Bello, made the charge at a one-day sensitization seminar on
components for trade facilitation with the theme “Ethics and Integrity In
Shipping Trade” which held at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Lagos.

The Shippers’ Council boss explained that the seminar aimed at promoting a new port
order that would ensure transparency, reduce the cost of doing business and
achieve a more efficient port system in the interest of trade.
He said: “The Council’s goal is to promote an efficient port system that
will encourage healthy competition, enthrone transparency, facilitate trade,
reduce cost of doing business and make all players aware of their duties,
obligations, responsibilities and liabilities.
“With high ethical practices in place in the port system, vices such as
impunity, presumptuous behaviours and ignorance with respect to adherence to
procedures , rules and regulations will be minimized.”
Delivering a paper titled ‘The Role of
Nigerian Shippers Council in Trade Facilitation’
Bellow, who was represented by Chief Cajetan Agu, the
Director Consumer Services of the Council, said the Council had continued to
work toward trade facilitation.
He said that the Council had been carrying out key
actions including interventions of creating awareness, sensitizing stakeholders
on the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in the port sector as well as
conflict resolution.
Bello noted that since trade facilitation aims at
reducing the complexity and cost of trade transaction process, traders must also
embrace transparency, as regulatory agencies work on simplifying the
documentation processes, adopt technology for automation and reach
mutually-beneficial agreements on movement of goods across the borders.  
Speaking on the legality of the Council to register
all port service providers, Bello said the exercise was being done according to
the provisions of the Act setting up the Nigerian Shippers’ Council as economic
He said the Council is empowered to register all port
service providers, in order that it guides against faceless importers and exporters
who may want to engage in unwholesome practices.
Representing the Director General of SON, Mr. Osita
Aboloma, the Director in Charge of Inspection and Compliance in SON, Mr. Obiora
Manafa, SON is positioned to ensure compliance with regulations and standards for
He said SON had been working proactively, sensitizing importers,
to guide against sub-standard goods coming into Nigeria.
Aboloma also said that to entrench the ease of doing
business at the ports, SON has embraced digitization in order to reduce human
interaction as much as possible.
He, however, noted that as SON works to ensure traders’
compliance to prescribed standards of goods being imported, some importers have
decided to work in line with the guidelines, while some others remain
recalcitrant indulging
in fake declaration and other vices.
Also speaking, the customs officer in charge of the
export desk at the Customs Command in Apapa Area 1, Deputy Controller Nelson Ochai,
encouraged the importers and exporters to be transparent in their declarations.
Ochai referred to a case of unwholesome trade practice
when an exporter emptied a container of cashew after inspection and loaded the
container with a helicopter.
He said: “You can imagine such malpractice, when an
exporter changed the content of a container from cashew to helicopter after the
container had been examined and granted clearance.
The interactive session however provided a platform for some stakeholders
to express their displeasure over hectic processes they undergo with SON to
bring in goods, even after meeting all prescribed requirement.
They decried the multiple payments they make for the same service, just
as they did over the collection of samples by SON for testing, adding that SON
never returns samples collected.
Responding to that, SON said samples collected like cylinders were
always destroyed in the course of carrying out standards test.
The stakeholders commended the initiative for such interactive session
and said they looked forward to more of such, where they would be able to raise
issues affecting trade facilitation with a hope to getting them addressed by
the authority concerned.

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