Apapa Customs says 48 hours cargo clearance topmost in its agenda
.Comptroller Bashir streamlines cargo clearing procedures in Apapa port
.Time release study vital in speedy cargo clearance -Says Comptroller Wale
By Udeme Clement
Apparently, Apapa Area Command of Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, is poised for greater trade facilitation and revenue generation for the Federal Government, as the new Customs Area Controller, CAC, Comptroller Abubakar Bashir, who took over the mantle of leadership only two weeks ago, is putting measures in place to ensure 48 hours cargo clearance from the premier port.
Therefore, to achieve speedy cargo clearance in line with international best practice, the new CAC is streamlining cargo clearing procedures by collapsing multiple Customs alerts into a single unit, in order to enhance operational efficiency in the clearing chain.
Comptroller Bashir proactively demonstrated his resolve to remove all bottlenecks, to achieve 48hours cargo clearance, as he convened stakeholders’ meeting at Apapa Command yesterday.
The meeting was designed specifically for stakeholders’ engagement as importers, clearing agents, different agencies operating within the premier port, as well as the media met to brainstorm, on ways to fast track cargo clearance in line with global trend that is recognised by World Customs Organisation, WCO, and the Nigerian laws.
The stakeholders’ engagement, which was an interactive forum also focused on Time Release Study, TRS, in cargo clearance. It paved the way for importers and clearing agents doing business in the premier port to highlight factors militating against speedy cargo clearance.
Speaking during the interactive session, Comptroller Bashir gave all officers in Apapa Command under his supervision a standing order, to work in tandem with the directives of the Customs headquarters, in order to ensure 48hours cargo clearance.
His assertion, “I met the terminal operators in Apapa port, as well as other agencies and made our position known to them, on the need to ensure 48hours cargo clearance. We must work tirelessly to meet this target, to enhance trade facilitation and maximum revenue generation for economic growth. Any delay in cargo clearance would not be tolerated at Apapa Command under my watch”.
The CAC added, “We are going to step up inter-agency collaboration with other government agencies in Apapa port to meet the target of 48hours cargo clearance. As importers, you should study, understand Customs laws and know your responsibilities. For instance, when you get your ‘Form M’ the Customs immediately response electronically the moment that form is downloaded into our server. It is your duty to go back to the bank and check. But our experience shows that some importers do not check back with their bank days after Customs has responded electronically”.
In the same vein, the National Coordinator, TRS, Comptroller Wale A. explained that TRS is a scientific approach in cargo clearing procedures, which measures the time involves in every activity within the clearing chain.
His words, “In TRS, Customs, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, terminal operators, importers, clearing agents, all agencies operating in the port and other stakeholders are involved in the process”.
He explained, “We started the pilot study in July 2018. According to WCO, we need a working group and must come up with work-plan, after which we have to design questionnaires for data collection, in order to analyse the result.
Comptroller Wale pointed out, “The WCO said we need six months for this pilot study. So, at present, we are at the stage of designing the questionnaires for data collection and result analysis. We would conclude by November this year. In doing this, we have to train the people involved in the exercise.” .
Financial Business observed that the stakeholders’ meeting was well attended with many importers and clearing agents who made meaningful suggestions on the new approach needed for cargo clearance to meet 48hours timeline.
Among senior Customs officers in attendance were, DC Gaya, the APM of Apapa Command, DC Ayalogu Anthony, who spoke extensively on TRS and the need for importers to ensure compliance with government fiscal policies by making accurate declaration.
DC Gaya also encouraged importers to follow the right procedures in their documentation, to fast track cargo clearance from the port.
The Public Relations Officer, PRO, of the Command, Nwala N, coordinated the question and answer segment of the meeting, which ended with commendations from stakeholders who turned out in large number.