ANLCA urges Customs to streamline cargo clearing procedures
- Laments blockage of containers by Marine Police
(Report by Udeme Clement):
The Chairman, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA),
Tincan Island Port chapter, Mr Ojo Peter Akintoye, has called on Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), to streamline cargo clearing procedures at the seaports, in order to enhance ease of doing business, in line with the Executive Order of the Federal Government.
Akintoye, who is a Licensed Customs Agent, and employer of Labour in the maritime industry, explained that various Units of Customs performing similar functions can operate under a single department to fast track cargo clearance from ports.
This, he stressed will enhance trade facilitation in line with international best practice.
Speaking further, Mr Akintoye pointed out; “Marine Police officers are also blocking containers at the ports. At present, there are more than five Units of Marine Police at the ports stopping containers.
“If you ask Marine Police officers why they are stopping a container, they will tell you, they are suspecting it. So, aside from Customs saddled with the statutory functions of ecamining containers, Police men are also doing the work of Customs at the ports.
“The situation at Nigerian seaports is terrible. Imagine Police stopping containers already examined by Customs in the same ports. Now, the question is, what are Police Units doing at the seaports when Customs officers are there?
“Today, there are more than 30 tables for cargo clearance at our ports. Cargo clearance in Nigeria is more expensive than other African countries. That is why, people are running away from our ports.”
Giving his assessment of the freight forwarding sub-sector in the first quarter of 2021, he said; ‘In reality, the sector has not achieved anything. Instead, local companies are closing shop due to hostile operating environment.
“Cargo importation has reduced drastically due to COVID -19. The declining value of our Naira is also affecting the business negatively.
“Some policies of government are indirectly killing maritime trade. For instance, government restricted 48 items from accessing forex on the official window of Central Bank. Now, the question is; are the manufacturers of these items meeting the demand of consumers in the country?
“Look at government policy on reduction in levy from 35 percent to five percent for new vehicles. How many Nigerians can afford new vehicles now? Most vehicles coming to Nigeria are not new because many people cannot afford new vehicles.
“Government should look inward and come up with policies that will grow our economy. Policy makers should sit with freight forwarders when formulating policies, in order to really understand what we need as a country”.
On issues of insecurity and lack of safety associated with barge operations; he advised government to embrace barge operation as alternative way of cargo delivery to limit the pressure on the roads, espeacially with the poor condition of the roads, coupled with chaotic traffic situation on ports access roads.
His words: “The truth is, there was no adequate preparation before commencement of barge operation. It came as the last option.
So, goverment should encourage the sector to grow and create jobs for the benefits of our economy. Both Federal and Lagos State governments should help barge operation to stand.”