- As Cargo clearing drags at Apapa port over Seized arms
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday ordered banks to process foreign exchange demand for Personal Travel Allowance (PTA) and Business Travel Allowance (BTA) in all their branches within 24 hours.
The CBN gave this order in a circular to all banks signed by the Director, Financial Markets Developments, Mr. Alvan Ikoku.
Titled, “Update to Foreign Exchange Directives”, the circular stated: “In view of the CBN’s willingness, capability, and determination to meet FX demand in the market, and in order to further increase foreign exchange availability to all end-users and ensure that a fair and verifiable exchange rate operates in the market, all banks are hereby directed as follows:
“Open a teller point for all retail FX transactions, including buying and selling, in all locations in order to ensure access to foreign exchange by their customers and other users, without any hindrance;
“All banks must have an electronic display board in all their branches, showing rates of all trading currencies, and customers must insist on processing FX transactions based on the displayed rates.
“Banks are mandated to process and meet the demand for travel allowances (PTA/BTA) by end-users within 24 hours of such application, as long as the end-users meet basic requirements already outlined in earlier directives; and banks are mandated to process and meet demands for school fees and medical bills within 48 hours of such application.
“Please note that this directive is effective immediately and non-compliance would attract sanctions including but not limited to being barred from all future CBN exchange intervention”.
In the meantime, importers are currently experiencing delays at the Apapa Port in Lagos due to the slow process of clearing cargoes.
Our correspondent gathered that the development was due to the 100 per cent physical examination of cargoes by agents of the Nigeria Customs Service in order to avoid a repeat of the case of the seized 661 pump action riffles found inside an already cleared container in January.
The physical examination, our correspondent gathered, became imperative because the scanners at the APM Terminal were said to be faulty, while the server recently broke down.
It was gathered that the process of cargo clearance had become cumbersome, defeating the vision of the Federal Government of ensuring the ease of doing business by speeding up the process of cargo clearing at the nation’s seaports.
An importer, Chief Osita Chukwu, complained that the process of cargo clearance was dragging and had resulted in additional expenses and financial losses for importers.
“Previously at the APM Terminal, clearing lasted for five days or less. Now, it is dragging into weeks and the delay is extra expenses for us,” he said.
Another importer, Eddy Akwaeze, told our correspondent that Nigerian ports were the most difficult in terms of clearing cargoes, adding that it was the reason importers preferred to clear their cargoes in ports of neighbouring countries.
At a stakeholders’ meeting held by the NCS, Apapa Command on Wednesday, participants complained that the delays were hampering trade facilitation.
The Federal Operations Unit of the NCS had on January 30 seized a truck carrying a container loaded with 661 pieces of pump action rifles along Mile 2 on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway in Lagos.
The Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (retd), said the rifles were concealed in steel doors and other goods in the container, adding that physical examination revealed 49 boxes containing the rifles.
Two Customs officers, Abdullahi I. and Odiba Haruna Inah, were held over the incident.
During his tour of the Federal Operations Units, Zone ‘A,’ following the arms seizure, the Zonal Coordinator, Assistant Comptroller General, Monday Abueh, had charged officers on the need to carry out 100 per cent physical examination of all containers before releasing them from the ports.
The Public Relations Officer, Apapa Customs Command, Mr. Emma Ekpa, defended the clearing process, saying that it could not be said to be causing delays, because the men were doing their job the way it was supposed to be done.
“It cannot be termed as cumbersome when the men are doing their job the way they are supposed to do it. They are checking what they are supposed to check and making sure that everything that was previously overlooked is given a thorough check,” he stated.
Vanguard with additional report from Upshot