ANLCA gets assurances on border re-opening, Non-interference of NASS in Cargo Clearance
* Says goods worth over N130bn lost in border closure
* Harps on delivery of transit goods to Customs
By Udeme Clement :
Owing to the need for Nigerian business community to maximize the benefits of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, has received government assurances for consideration to rescind border closure .
ANLCA had reminded the Federal Government that AfCFTA regime, which hopes to take effect from January 2021 with secretariat in Accra Ghana, will place Nigerian businesses at disadvantage, if the nation’s land borders remained closed to trade.
The National President of ANLCA, Mr IJU TONY NWABUNIKE, disclosed this to Journalists.
He said, “The association further reminded government that Nigeria will be shut out of trade with proximate countries of Benin Republic, Cameroun, Chad and Niger Republic in West and Central African countries.
“Its also identified historic and strategic trade impact of Nigeria to Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), as well as Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), where it is bordered by Niger, Cameroun and Chad.
The association therefore secured the assurances of the Federal Government on the need to effect gradual re-opening of the closed borders with particular focus on rules of origin to prevent abuses of incentives like ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS).”
He informed, “This, in our view will help in discouraging smuggling through all approved routes.
“In line with ECOWAS protocol, we hope all Neighbouring countries will henceforth deliver transit goods to Nigeria Customs Service.
“We posit that for Nigeria Customs to be in tune with international best practice, it should allow Micro Chip shoot on every container along the ECOWAS route into the country.
“It was observed as an issue of utmost concern that cargoes on transit and mobile assets like trucks laden with goods worth over N130billion belonging to private business people were trapped since August 18, 2019, when the borders were shut under a joint operation, codenamed ‘Exercise Swift Response’.
“Most of the goods with perishable timelines had either been destroyed due to expiry periods or damaged beyond redemption as a result of exposure to unfavorable elements.
“ANLCA findings also confirmed vandalism, theft and arson on some of the trucks and goods they carry, therefore causing great losses to many struggling business men and women.
Of note is over 10,000 direct and indirect jobs that have been lost so far due to this policy, which in our view , should have been approached and implemented differently.
” Similarly, the association also interacted with ranking members of the Senate over allegations of National Assembly members interference in cargo clearing.
After closed door interactions, it was mutually agreed between ANLCA and members of the Senate Committee on Customs and Excise that it negates due process, for lawmakers to be involved in cargo clearing.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Francis Alimikhena gave his words that all cargo clearance hitherto stalled with shipping companies due to the committee’s activities and correspondence will be allowed to be processed in line with extant regulations.
“Senator Francis Alimikhena agreed with ANLCA that: whereas the oversight functions of lawmakers cannot be wished away on the executive arm of government and any of its agents, the day to day operation of duty collection, cargo examination, issuance of demand notices (when necessary) and effecting seizures for due infractions rest with Customs.
“It was further concluded as an incontrovertible fact, that the functions of Customs officers as provided in the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) cannot be performed by any person, or body not authorized to act so.
“Our message to all Customs brokers, freight forwarders, logistics operators and haulage companies is to remain calm in the face of imminent review of government policies to accommodate their line of businesses and expand opportunities for growth. They should expect light at the end of the tunnel and be prepared to take full legitimate advantages that the adjusted regime will usher in.
“ANLCA will continue to pursue the interest of our members in areas of operational challenges, and seeking amicable resolutions to trade disputes arising from government policies and other stakeholder’s actions.”