Customs role in cargo clearance is limited to examination, release of goods – Says Uche Ejesieme * Clears the air on alleged 21 extortion points

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Customs role in cargo clearance is limited to examination, release of goods – Says Uche Ejesieme

* Clears the air on alleged 21 extortion points

(By Udeme Clement):

Mr Uche Ejesieme :
The Public Relations Officer (PRO), TinCan Island Port Command :

The Public Relations Officer (PRO), of TinCan Island Port Command of Nigeria Customs Service, Mr Uche Ejesieme, has said that the role of Customs in cargo clearance at the seaports is limited to examination and release of trade goods.

He made this open clarification sequel to the allegation by freight forwarders that Customs creates 21 points where its officers extort money from importers during cargo clearance at the ports.

The Agents also alleged that multiple Customs Units are responsible for high prices of goods in the local markets, even as they accused Customs of hindering trade facilitation in the maritime industry.

Giving his explanation on these allegations, Mr Uche Ejesieme, said :
“First, it will be pertinent to acquaint us with the role of Customs in trade value chain and even go further to point out the processes and procedures for a compliant trader.

“It may interest you to know that the role of Customs is just limited to EXAMINATION AND RELEASE of cargo.
This is because the automated system allows for self assessment/ declaration by the importer or his agent.

“Therefore whatever you declare would be captured and treated as such, except when physical examination proves otherwise”.

The TinCan Command PRO went on, “For the import procedure, any eligible importer is expected to fill form ‘M’ with the designated bank, with all relevant import documents, which will be processed by the bank and uploaded to Customs portal for issuance of PAAR.”

He pointed out,  “We must note that PAAR will be issued based on information from the importer. Once issued, you proceed to the port for clearance of cargo.

“Once the importer makes declaration on our NICIS – 2 platform, SELECTIVITY engine is triggered to the appropriate lane and your SGD automatically assigned to a particular Releasing officer for examination and release of cargo”.

He informed, “However, the interference of any other Unit is usually on the outcome of physical examination or privileged intelligence report.

“it is instructive that of the alleged 21 steps, some are statutory requirements for documentation, some for checks and balances, while the rest are actually figments of the writers imagination.”

He emphasised,  “For the purpose of this response, it is imperative to reiterate that in the course of sensitisation exercise with our stakeholders, we identified three categories of traders namely;
COMPLIANT TRADERS,
FAIRLY COMPLIANT TRADERS
AND FULL NON COMPLIANT TRADERS.
For the first category, it comprises of mostly multinational companies and few non. For the second category, it comprises of those who you must prod to be compliant. while the third category are those who believe processes must be circumvented despite how simple you might want to make the procedure look.”

Mr Ejesieme continued, “However,. the good news is that we are embarking on continuous STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT, with a view to making the non – compliant traders see reasons to conform with the extant laws.

“Statutory requirements are ;
Form ‘M’ from the designated bank.
PAAR from the ruling centre in headquarters. Examination of cargo.
CIU provides additional intelligence.
Valuation unit, to check value and for appraisal of value when infractions are noticed. CPC/Q&A – for modification of HS code. Post Clearance Audit, is a follow up unit for Fast track beneficiaries .
Monitoring / compliance unit, is a statutory requirement of World Customs Organisation, wherein all Customs administrations are required to put modalities in place to ensure compliance.
DC terminals and OC gates, for final documentary checks.

“In all of these, compliance is the key word. By our standards, a compliant trader will always get expeditious attention and other incentives. Beyond these, the Customs headquarters had mandated the Commands to create a DISPUTE RESOLUTION COMMITTEE (DRC), for resolution of all trade disputes with the speed of light in line with the concept of legitimate trade facilitation.”

His words, “Additionally, the PR Units/ Help desk have been trained to mediate in genuine cases and above all, the offices of Area Controllers in all Customs formations are always accessible for complaints”.

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