…Alongside Minimizing Multiple alerts, Automating involving and payments***
I recall with nostalgia my various outings with the two-term Immediate Past National President-Prince Olayiwola Shittu’s administration in ANLCA, when on some of those occasions, ANLCA interacted more meaningfully with other stakeholders to achieve set common goals. I remember how ANLCA and the top management of Nigeria Customs Service as a collective, and at times as individuals, discussed issues affecting the Ports industry’s efficiency.
How efficiency can be enhanced, leakages of collectible revenue blocked, to enhance a bigger national cake to be shared at the FAAC meeting, how the capacities of especially Customs personnel and Brokers can be elevated in equivalence, or even better than, international standards, etc were our main focus. Most of these meetings set targets and timelines to achieve them.
Unfortunately, when the current National Executive Committee came into being it did not take time for the Principal of the executive to realize that he was obviously in the wrong place because of his incapacity and unwillingness to learn from those suggested to him by leaders/Elders of the association.
His ambivalence was too glaring to be ignored by saner minds, because of its destructive tendencies.
Somehow, on the 21st of June 2018, smarting from a two-week holiday abroad, NP of ANLCA led a delegation on a courtesy call-turned to a full interactive by the Comptroller General of Customs (CGC) – Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd), to Customs Headquarters, Abuja.
Handy with an address containing lists of Challenges faced by members of ANLCA, a frank discussion ensued, to the extent that the CGC immediately directed a team of some of his senior management officers to immediately plunge themselves into the issues presented before the Customs management and come up with workable solutions.
Some of these issues presented then, which still confronts our members today in the course of delivering their cargoes are, but not limited to:
(i) Multiple Alerts on cargoes
(ii) Usurpation of Post Clearance Audit and its activities
(iii) Customs Support for unauthorized agencies in the ports
(iv) Multiple Customs units operating at the airports and highways
(v) Re-examination of Cargoes at final gates and FOU positioning at 200meters outside Ports gates (vi) Vehicles discretionary value without consideration of depreciation, etc.
This last one on vehicles value engaged the administration of Prince Olayiwola Shittu, to the extent that he led a team to understudy Ghana’s institution of dynamic portal warehousing all models of vehicles for all of the years, especially those permissible by age in Government fiscal policies.
If this issue of providing a Vehicle’s ex-factory price + depreciation and Hs Codes portal has been made operational, unpalatable cases of inherent underhand dealings in valuing each vehicle would have been a thing of the past.
With this singular infrastructure/access provided for everyone – importers, exporters, Customs Brokers, Revenue officers, the public would have had a different perception of Customs Officers, who carry the toga of insincerity in their management of valuation of vehicles in the ports and border stations too.
In the same vein, the incessant and multiple alerts on Cargoes has a workable proposal, put forward by the current Comptroller in charge of TinCan Port Command in 2018.
This, he called the one-stop-shop desk, to sort out multiple alerts coming from different Customs units and even from other government agencies.
The proposal never found comfort with the various contending forces/units in the management team in Abuja, despite the fact that the one-stop-shop structure was already in place then, in Tin Can.
Away from the issues of vehicles discretionary values and the multiple alerts; There were other burning issues confronting the generality of ANLCA’s membership. Unfortunately, the crisis of confidence that hit ANLCA disrupted the follow up on the burning issues in the address read by the NP of ANLCA on the 21st of June, 2018 in the conference hall at Customs Headquarters, Abuja.
Almost two solid years after that trip to Customs headquarters, nothing has happened or is happening. Two years after the all-inclusive meeting between the two major stakeholders operating under the same constituency and technical environment, we are still “perambulating and still dey for same same place”. (Apologies to the one and only AbamiEda – Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, of blessed memory).
Furthermore, the vehicle with which some of these issues can be resurrected and retabled for reconsideration, has been bartered and, presently damaged beyond immediate or even medium term repairs. Very, very unfortunate.
To think that the NP of ANLCA, on the day of our swearing in to office on the 14th of April 2018 inside a large hall in Golden Tulip Hotel, Amuwo Odofin, Lagos spoke the words of hope to the admiration of hundreds of members, guest and friends in attendance, is very disappointing to see how ANLCA has degenerated under his watch.
I quote him, “Specifically, we will work to assist government in reducing administrative bottle necks in our sector, in support of its efforts to improve the ease of doing Business in Nigeria. We will also work with government in eliminating the duplication of its agencies and the harmonization of charges at the ports, the reduction of excessive taxes and charges, the reduction of automobiles tariffs, and the reduction of Ports congestion by including border posts for clearing of automobiles and the total elimination of foreigners and unlicensed personnel into our Profession”. (End of quote)
Fifty-seven weeks after that declaratory inaugural address, the Ports situation is still yearning for a positive change.
However, those of us who are very passionate about this our noble and internationally recognized profession – Customs Brokerage, will be persistent in our calls for the improvement of ports services supporting infrastructure, deployment of equipment, collection and analysis of ports or trade-related data, training, and retraining of Customs officers and Brokers to achieve better and the best efficiency in services delivery, sustenance of best practices, discouraging acts leading to revenue leakages, etc.
In light of the above, the biggest area of discomfort is the examination bay, where the Customs personnel, Customs Brokers and several government/security agencies interact humanly.
This one big problem area that deserves the full attention of the Federal Government of Nigeria/Nigeria Customs Service. In fact, this is the area that generates the biggest image crisis for the Nigeria Customs Service.
This is the area that best describes the genesis of the very wrong and pathetic perception of the discerning publics about the Nigeria Customs Service personnel.
In order to extricate itself from these wrong impressions, clean up its public perception and be seen to operate transparently,
Customs should do all it takes to ensure the installation of rugged, industrial scanners and CCTV cameras at all our international trading boundaries so that issues of security, appropriate determination of collectible revenue, and shortening of the turnaround time for deliveries are brought down drastically to even a few hours.
Coupled with the provision of this equipment at our ports and borders stations are pari-pasu training of personnel to man and sustain the industrial scanners over a ROI period.
The other issue that will guarantee Ease-of-doing-Business and relieve most Customs Brokers of the stress they daily pass through, is the automation of the transactional processes of shipping Companies and Terminal operators.
The easier it is for Customs Brokers – as the vital link – in the Customs cargo clearance process, to obtain Debit Notes, make and confirm payments online, book for examination , know the exam date without necessarily being physically visiting the ports, except when being present for examination; Results of examination and Releases relayed electronically, and Delivery Order(DO) and TDO (Terminal Delivery Order) obtained online, that will be when the Customs Brokers will cease dropping dead on account of ill-health accentuated by High Blood Pressure, High Blood Sugar levels, physical and emotional stress, etc.
I personally cannot wait to see the manifestation of all the above-mentioned processes, infrastructures and instituted capacity building, to begin to say, finally, Customs Brokerage in Nigeria has finally touched base.
Until that time, any distractive discussion not centered on how best and fast to deliver our clients cargoes, makes no sense to any professional who, in practice and indeed, ekes out a legitimate living from Customs Brokerage services in Nigeria.
May God Almighty continue to give those who care about providing legitimate Custom Brokerage services to equally compliant Importers/Exporters, the wisdom to sustain calls for a better Cargo clearance Process in our Ports and Border Stations. Amen.
I wish all our member-Brothers and Sisters, and Nigerian Muslims in general – Happy EID EL FITRI/Eid Mubarak celebrations! May Allah accept all your prayers and supplications throughout the 30-days fasting period. Ameen.
PUBLIC OPINIONS are strict views of the writers; and not a direct or indirect view of the Maritime First.