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Hub Status Unattainable, If Stakeholders Won’t Play Selflessly- Bello



Cargo Tracking Note (CTN), Mr. Hassan Bello, NSC Boss-- Maritime First Newspaper
  • Lampoons Customs

Until every stakeholder, particularly the Government agencies, learn to play by the rules, honestly and selflessly, the nation’s dream of becoming a maritime hub would remain a mirage.

The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers` Council (NSC), Mr Hassan Bello indicated this, in a message at a Town Hall Meeting on Cargo Handling and Port Charges organised by the Publisher of Business and Maritime West Africa, Mr Okey Ibeke, on Wednesday in Lagos, stressing the need for serious improvement in port operations to attain the desired hub status in the West and Central Africa sub-region.

Bello was particularly hard on the Customs, noting that action, not words, tenacity, not distraction would get Nigeria to attain the status.

“Customs should lead by example and not allow agents to be dictating their time of resumption to office, as they are representatives of government”, Bello who was represented by Mrs Ifeora Celine, an Assistant Director of the NSC observed, grieving that in the 2017 global rating, Nigeria is rated number 169: Togo 154; Benin Republic 155; and Niger is rated 150..

“I have visited Customs examination centres and officers were not at the place of examination until late in the afternoon.

“Customs officer should be up and doing and any agent that could not meet up with the time should be made to pay a fine,“ Bello indicated further, urging
stakeholders to always speak with one voice, to enable government to do the right thing, because the present administration is good intentioned and has favourable policy, but lacked proper enforcement.

Bello said that the Nigerian ports was working toward engaging the operation of trackers in electronic methods, to free the port access roads from congestion by trucks using port roads as their parking bays.

He called for provision of scanners in all terminals to reduce many cargoes engaged in physical examination in order to reduce the time of doing business.

He also called for more collaboration among the government agencies to enable them to arrive at tangible decisions to tackle the challenges in the maritime industry.

In her contribution, the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms Hadiza Usman, who was also represented by the General Manager, Marine and Operations, Mr Joshua Asanga lauded the port concession policy, pointing out that the concessioning regime has actually precipitated tremendous improvement in port  operations and development.

Usman however believed that it was easier to implement policy in the private sector, than in the public sector, even as he noted that the concessioning regime had shaped the business attitude of Nigerians, especially in business transaction.

She said that the concession period at the Nigerian ports had reduced cargo dwell time and had also improved the water depth from 10 metres to more than 13 metres which encouraged bigger ships to berth in Nigerian ports.

Usman said that both Lagos and Onne ports received bigger vessels.

The Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Dakuku Peterside, urged both government agencies and stakeholders to work together and implement their resolutions.

Peterside, who was represented by Director, Shipping Development of NIMASA, Mr Anthony Ogadi, however grieved that about 85 per cent of Nigerian goods were imported.

He pointed out that all agricultural raw materials and semi-processed goods were being exposed to poor pricing which were indirectly accentuated by unfavourable cargo handing process and port charges.

“With the high cost of imported goods coupled with the accruable lean export earnings from non-oil exports, the nation`s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) remains perpetually low

“The Federal Government should be free from the costs it incurred in developing or managing port operations. Operations of the concessionaires can be commercialised as in other developed maritime nations of the world,“ Peterside said.

The Chairman of the occasion, Mrs Margaret Onyema-Orakwusi, said that there was need for government to look into the issue of armed robbery and piracy attack along the Eastern area of the country, adding that this was affecting business.

Onyema-Orakwusi, Chairman, Ship Owners Forum, urged government to intensify efforts in the Eastern area to ensure permanent safety with the help of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency.

Ibeke said that both policy makers and provider of shipping services had not been able to reach a consensus on the factors responsible for the state of affairs in the port industry..

He said that the gap between the government and service providers had led to high terminal charges through inadequate cargo handling equipment to innate inclination of Nigerian importers to avoid payment of statutory taxes.

Ibeke said the avoidance of tax led to the desire for outright smuggling.

He said that government should evaluate the benefits of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) as well as the level of implementation of the Common External Tariffs (CET) by ECOWAS member states.

“I believe that the time has come for our government to have a rethink on the underlying philosophy of our trade relations with our neighbours,’’ Ibeke said.

The President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Price Olayiwola Shittu, said the present legal tussle between the Nigerian Shippers` Council, Terminal Operators /Shipping Company Operators had constituted a major logjam in the process of improvement in ports operations.

Shittu said that, “An unregulated operation led to suspicious even where their own demands are made in good faith especially when there is need for increase of their charges’’.

He said that there was need for cessation of legal hostilities between port operators and the Nigerian Shippers` Council, adding that extortion by the operators in the course of service should stop.

The Founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Chief Boniface Aniebonam, said that government should ensure that investors were protected at all times.

Aniebonam said that shipping operations were dollar-denominated, adding that there was need for consideration with regards to dollar rates at the moment.

He said that Nigeria should be re-aligned to prosperity.

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ALI: Why Customs Attained Only N2.6trn, Out of 2022 Revenue Target of N3.1trn



ALI: Why Customs Attained Only N2.6trn, Out of 2022 Revenue Target of N3.1trn

…Blames unpredictable Stock market, Government’s fiscal policies, particularly, waivers and concessions***

The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) has blamed the unpredictable Stock market and Government’s fiscal policies, particularly, waivers and concessions as being mainly responsible, for the shortfall in the 2022 revenue target.

Actually, the Service had a revenue target of N3.1 trillion, but terminated the ambition, after raking in, N2.6trn; making a mirage of N400 billion.

Ali stated this on Thursday in Abuja, while fielding questions from newsmen at a briefing to mark the end of a three-day global conference organised by the World Customs Organisation (WCO).

The Comptroller-General said, “non-commencement of tariffs on carbonated drinks, telecommunications tariff, among other things, affected the actualisation of the service’s target for 2022.”

ALI: Why Customs Attained Only N2.6trn, Out of 2022 Revenue Target of N3.1trn

He said the service was “hopeful that 2023 will be better if all these factors would be put in place.

On the theme of the conference “Enabling Customs in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Situations“, Ali said he was disturbed by the security challenges in border areas.

He said besides efforts being made to get his personnel fully equipped for the job, the service was not resting on its oars to build its capacity for effective performance.

Ali pledged to do everything to reposition the service.

It would be recalled that while the Service celebrated recording such a huge revenue feat, many Stakeholders, particularly the importers and Customs brokers wept bitterly, lamenting what they perceived as the introduction of various strategies and high-handedness towards meeting the set target!

On more than one occasion, they had threatened to down tool; and at least, on one occasion, they actually did, over what they described as misapplication of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) scheme.

Most pronounced was the ‘anti-smuggling’ activities of the Federal Operation Units, which severally waylaid, containers already cleared by Customs as they exit the ports, rechecking their documents; and often, taking the containers to their base, for another round of examination or raising of new Debit Notes.

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Emerging Border Crimes threatening Customs Operations-Ali



Emerging Border Crimes threatening Customs Operations-Ali

… Says Customs forced to suspend operations in places considered “fragile”***

The Comptroller-General of Customs, retired Col. Hameed Ali, says emerging border crimes were threatening Customs operations.

Ali said this at a news briefing on Thursday in Abuja, to mark the end of a three-day Global Conference on Fragile Borders, organised by the World Customs Organisation (WCO).

The WCO was established in 1952 as the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC), specifically as an independent, intergovernmental body whose mission is to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of Customs administrations.

The conference has the theme, ‘Enabling Customs in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Situations’.

He said although the primary function of Customs was to generate revenue and facilitate trade, heightened insecurity around the borders had made it imperative to be adequately equipped to work effectively.

The Customs boss, who is the Vice Chairman of the West and Central Africa (WCA) region of WCO, while thanking WCO for giving Nigeria the opportunity to host the conference, said “we are honoured.”

He said the dangerous trends around the borders were increasing by the day, saying “We are inundated by this fragile border issue in the gulf of Guinea and other neighbouring countries.

“Unfortunately Customs is a hard hit because of the quest to rid our borders of smugglers and other border criminals.

He further said “smugglers for instance have become very deadly and some of our gallant officers have lost their lives in the process of trying to stop their nefarious activities.

“We have also lost properties over time and this is because these smugglers use dangerous weapons to try to deter our officers from carrying out their responsibilities.

“So, it will be foolhardy to confront such a dangerous group of people without being adequately equipped.”

The Customs Boss said the development had become dire in some border areas adding that Customs was forced to suspend operations in those places they had been declared “fragile”.

“This is a critical matter that requires needed attention and this is because if there is no security there will be no movement of goods and services and that will affect revenue generation.

“There is a need therefore for total overhaul of the service in some countries because Customs officers do not carry arms in those countries.

“That ought to change now that there is so much insecurity around us.

“One of the ways we are working to ensure that  Customs stays ahead of these criminals is the e-Customs platform.’

Dr Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary-General, WCO, said there was a need for relevant stakeholders to collaborate for better performance.

Mikuriya said WCO a 184-member worldwide organisation in which Nigeria plays an active role, was concerned about the spate of insecurity.

He said the time had come for Customs to go beyond mere revenue generation to paying attention to security matters, adding that “without security at the borders we cannot effectively collect revenue.”

He also said there was a need for data sharing, research and development, intelligence gathering and deployment of technology in the whole exercise.

The Secretary-General said WCO was working out an action plan to help tackle the issue of insecurity, particularly as it affects Customs.

Part of the activities of the WCO at the conference was a scheduled visit to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Today, the WCO represents 182 Customs administrations across the globe that collectively process approximately 98% of world trade.

As the global centre of Customs expertise, the WCO is the only international organisation with competence in Customs matters and can rightly call itself the voice of the international Customs community.

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Seme Customs Seizes Fake $6m, 1,300 kegs of Petrol, 14 Intern’l Passports, in 10 days



Seme Customs Seizes Fake $6m, 1,300 kegs of Petrol, 14 Intern'l Passports, in 10 days

The new Customs Area Controller CAC, Seme Customs Command, Dera Nnadi, has made spectacular seizures, which included fake $6 million cash, an equivalent of N2.763bn, 1,300 kegs of petrol, a.k.a Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), just within 10 days of his assuming duty.

Compt. Nnadi disclosed this at a press briefing on Thursday, highlighting that the fake dollars were seized at Gbaji checkpoint along Seme corridor in the early hours of January 31st, 2023; also noted that the command intercepted 550 pieces of donkey skin, 146 bags of flour, 14 international passports and 10 international drivers’ licenses.

The impounded petrol could fill over a fuel tanker.

He said that two male suspects were arrested in connection with the seizure. 

Compt. Nnadi also stated that the 1,300 jerry cans of PMS seized had a duty-paid value of N9,366,450.

He added that the products were seized along the creeks.

He stated that the seized 146 bags of flour has a duty-paid value of N5, 383,020.

The CAC explained that the 550  pieces of donkey skin in 550 sacks seized represents the killing of 550 donkeys, an animal classified as part of endangered species which needs to be protected.

He said that the duty-paid value of the seized donkey skin is N11, 371,511.00.

He observed that the officers of the command intercepted six Maltese international passports with the same picture of a lady but bearing different names, two Senegalese international passports, three Togolese international passports, four Republic of Benin international passports, one Republic of Niger passport and ten international driver’s licenses from two male suspects.

According to the controller, the passports and driver’s licenses were intercepted along Gbetrome base.

He maintained that his command facilitated the movement of 70 trucks under ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) with fees amounting to N1, 414,665.01 collected.

Compt. Nnadi announced that there were 81 baggage declarations with duty amounting to N4, 520,722.

He said that the items imported under this arrangement include food products and beverages produced within the sub-region. 

 The CAC stated that the command recorded only five declarations of import within the period with a total of N13,383,104 paid as duty.

He equally explained that the dearth in import was a result of the trade policy introduced by Republic of  Benin which traders and indeed the Service consider hostile to  Nigeria. 

On export, Nnadi stated that the command processed 122 trucks bearing 3,770.49 metric tons of made-in-Nigeria cargo with a Free On Board value of N523,660,496.80 and National Export Supervision Scheme fee of N2, 618,302.10.

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