ANLCA members berate Farinto for comments on SON
By Our Reporters
Topflight members of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) have dissociated themselves and the group from recent comments made by their Vice President, Dr. Kayode Farinto, about the Standards Orgnisation of Nigeria (SON).
The members, who spoke to Our Reporters on conditions of anonymity, said Farinto spoke on his personal capacity, not as a representative of the association.
Farinto had last week in a media briefing in Lagos, lamented that in the last two weeks, it had been very challenging for members of ANLCA to get their PAAR (Pre-Arrival Assessment Report), a development he said was costing Nigerian ports revenue loss of N6.0 billion daily.
He alleged that this was so because of the collapse of the agency’s online application portal for operation of the offshore Conformity Assessment Program (SONCAP) for processing of regulated imports into Nigeria.
But an old time member of the group explained that ANLCA had a laid down procedure for speaking to the media, which could only be done by the National President or the National Publicity Secretary (NPS).
He maintained that should occasion arise where neither of the two could stand for the association on press matters, any other person to perform such a function must have the express permission of the National President or the National Executive Committee (NECOM) to do so.
They regretted that on SON issue, nothing of such happened, as the Vice President arrogated to himself the powers of speaking on behalf of the association on an issue that was purely personal to him.
The frontline Customs brokers urged the leadership of ANLCA to call the Vice President to order, to avoid the association having unnecessary skirmishes with other stakeholders, be they government or private concerns.
Neither the National President, Hon. Tony Iju Nwabunike, nor the National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Joe Sanni, could be reached by our Correspondents for comments on the matter, as at the time of filing the report.
Farinto had in his media briefing further alleged that they had as a result been paying huge demurrage for a problem that was not their fault.
He said it appeared the system analyst SON brought in did not carry Customs along or did not know much about the SON software.
“Nigerian port is losing N6.0 billion daily as a result of the system collapse in SON, if this is not addressed in 24 hours, there would be chaos in cargo clearance”, Dr. Farinto said.
He called on the Nigeria Customs Service as the lead agency at the port to rise to the challenge and proffer solution to the challenge or else, importers and clearing agents would not hesitate to go to court.
Arguing that SON regulated cargo was about 35 per cent, he said the failure in its system had constituted impediment to cargo clearing. He lamented that stakeholders were losing billions of Naira and there was a need for the government to declare a force majeure, adding that agents could not continue to pay demurrages for SON’s faults.
SON promptly debunked his claim in a statement issued from the office of the Director General, Osita Aboloma, stressing that rather, it was those importers who failed to comply with the pre-shipment process who were crying wolf on accumulation of demurrage on their consignments.
According to the statement signed by the Head, Public Relations of SON, Mr. Bola Fashina, the portal was recently upgraded to ensure optimal performance, enhance a seamless operation and more efficient service delivery to customers and stakeholders alike.
Fashina, disclosed that some of the advantages the upgraded SONCAP portal offered were: a one-stop-shop that provides clients opportunity to apply, track application, send messages to SON and receive responses as well, upload evidence of payments seamlessly
Other advantages, he added, were profile of the work done and documents used for application are available on Clients’ dashboard; no more Tax Identification Number (TIN) error; no more mistakes in company name, etc.
Fashina alluded to a recent challenge in transmitting approved and activated SONCAP certificates to the national trade portal, which according to him, was not peculiar to SON but all other trade related agencies from January 22, 2020.
He stated that the issue had since been rectified on the national trade portal and all pending SONCAP certificates transmitted to the Nigerian Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS) portal as at February 1, 2020.
On the claim that imports were accumulating demurrage as a result of the gap, Fashina explained that SONCAP was a pre-shipment process, stressing that only non-compliant importers, who applied for the certificates after the arrival of their consignments were crying foul.
He said some importers who brought in about 182 containers into the country without following the pre-shipment conformity assessment process were those trying to circumvent established procedures and crying wolf.
According to him, such consignments would naturally be subjected to scrutiny, seized if found to be substandard while those behind then would face prosecution.
He advised importers to follow the import procedures strictly by ensuring that they process their product and SONCAP certificates offshore, rather than looking for short cuts after the consignments have arrived Nigeria.