…As Hameed Ali blames stakeholders for non-compliance, emphasises Sanctions***
The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council, Barrister Hassan Bello may have taken up the issue of Single Window implementation with Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), saying it is ‘sine qua non’ to functional trade facilitation.
The Customs Comptroller General, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) however posited that while the Service was well disposed to it, Nigeria’s biggest problem in this regard had been the pronounced non-compliance of stakeholders.
Bello who said he was on the same page with the Customs on non compliance, a euphemism for false or dishonest declaration by shippers, and identified it as a noteworthy challenge, which the Shippers’ Council has now evolved a mandate to tackle.
He harped on the need for further enlightenment to educate stakeholders on the need for compliance, stressing that the time taken to exit cargoes at the port also needed to be adjusted.
Bello emphasised the issue of lack of scanners in the port, an infrastructure lack on the side of the Customs, insisting that this must be urgently tackled, to guarantee quick exit of cargoes at the ports.
He also stressed that decision makers and Government functionaries must focus more attention at encouraging Nigerians on exportation of products in the country to help boost the economy, hinting that a country that fails to export tinkers with a bleak future.
“We have become so import dependent that we have forgotten what export is. Export is very important so that we can earn foreign exchange.
“If we get our maritime industry correct, we get our trade facilitation, then we can finance our budget without even thinking of the oil,” Bello further pointed out.
However, in his response, Ali highlighted that while the Service was well disposed to trade facilitation, stakeholders’ non compliance or pronounced dishonest declarations remains Nigeria’s biggest problem.
Also read: PHOTOS from Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC)
Ali who spoke while hosting Hassan Bello in his Abuja office, also said the NCS was ready to collaborate with the NSC to sensitise stakeholders on the importance of compliance which has become Nigeria’s biggest problem in terms of trade.
Said Ali: “We need to sensitise our stakeholders on the importance of compliance. We have the habit of wanting to short change the government and the system.
“Our mentality on compliance is zero. So, a discuss on compliance will go a long way and we look forward to cooperating with you (NSC), to ensure that forum is organised to get our people aware”, Ali stated, even as his
military background came to the fore.
“We must find a model for enforcing compliance, there must be sanctions, I think that is the only way to ensure compliance!’’
Ali indicated that the service was already working towards a platform known as E-Customs that would ensure a paperless process in the entire business of the NCS.
He recalled that in a recent meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Chairman of the Single Window Project, it was agreed that the E-Custom would be the main platform for the Single Window.
He said: “The idea is that, it will be a warehouse where everybody keys into for information and for transacting business in Nigeria.
“What is required for all other agencies including the Shippers Council is to develop their own technological platform and then key into the E-customs platform.
“All those already in our platform will be integrated into this, but it will require a lot of technology, it will require robust platforms for agencies to key into that system and use it successfully.”
On the MoU between the NCS and the NSC, Ali said it would be fast tracked and looked into speedily.
On protecting cargoes, Ali said the NCS would up their game to ensure every container being transported in the country was duly protected.
However, Ali on empty containers at the ports, said it was a major challenge, saying that sanctions would be needed, to ensure all containers brought into the country was taken out accordingly.
He frowned on the fact that Terminal Operators who were saddled with the responsibility of moving overtime containers to the warehouse in Ikorodu usually defaulted in their duty.
He said the default had contributed to congestion at the ports, while calling on the NSC to intervene to ensure the ports were decongested.
“I hope you can help us with that so that we can de-congest the ports.
“More so, with the border closure, the de-congestion will enable us see more containers coming into the ports rather than going to other ports,” Ali said.