The Comptroller General of Customs (CGC), Alhaji (Dr.) Dikko Inde Abdullahi has directed that henceforth all Customs Intelligence Units (CIU) should operate from outside the ports environment.
The directive was aimed at promoting easy clearance of goods at the ports and to reduce the level of corruption within the port system.
Consequent upon the directive, the Customs Area Comptroller (CAC) in charge of Tin Can Island Port, Comptroller Zakari Jibrin, in conjunction with the Comptroller CIU, Tajudeen Olanrewaju convened a meeting few days ago in Lagos, with Customs licensed agents, especially the elected officials of their various Associations in attendance, to interpret, in practical terms, the operationability of the directive as contained in circular No. 05/2014, in order to give it the desired effect needed to promote trade facilitation at the nation’s ports.
The circular reads in part: “Henceforth, all CIU operatives are to operate from outside the terminals. They are however allowed to witness examinations and participate in examination, after which they withdraw to their offices outside the port. CIU operatives must not issue clearance to any importer under any guise.
“After physical examination of cargo, no officer under any guise is allowed to have contact with either an importer or his agent. Any such contact will be viewed by management as compromise of maximum revenue collection which will be punishable under the appropriate Public Service Regulations (PSR).” The circular went further to emphasize that, “on no account should an importer or his agent seek any form of clearance from any enforcement officer at the terminal or examination bay.”
Explaining the intention of the circular, Comptroller CIU, Tajudeen Olanrewaju said the Customs Intelligent Units were created to gather intelligence on officers, their work environment including agents and make their reports available to the CAC.
According to him the CIUs were not supposed to intrude or distort the cargo clearance process.
The circular is expected to lead to final banning of CIU, Enforcement and gate officers, from interfering with cargoes that have been duly released, after physical examination are conducted and exit notes issued; with gate officers mostly relying on the examination reports of the resident officers, to exit cargoes from the ports.
In the meantime, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) may have agreed in principle, based on recent discussion with the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar and other stakeholders, regarding the need for collection of transaction fees in the ports, to await the outcome of the modalities from the newly appointed Port Commercial Regulator, the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) modalities, before embarking on top level discussion on the issue.
In a meeting held when the CGC made an unscheduled visit to the port recently, the group welcomed the idea of Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) collection of transaction fees, and the decisions of the Minister of Transport that associations should be funded from the transaction fees, via a distribution method which should be based on a pro rata basis.–International Trade Monitor