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SON Indicts Customs Over Exclusion From Cargo Examination

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  • As Smugglers Batter Customs Officers In Ogun State

The Standards Organization of‎ Nigeria (SON) has said that it is being excluded from 88% of cargo examinations by the Nigeria Customs Service, a development which has led to the influx of substandard products into Nigerian markets.

Speaking at a Maritime Stakeholders Awareness Forum with importers and clearing agents in Lagos yesterday, Director General of SON, Dr. Paul Angya said that officers of the Nigeria Customs Service should be blamed for the influx of fake products into the country, because most times, they fail to allow SON do its job.

Angya however assured that he had initiated a collaboration at the highest level with the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Alli and a joint committee has been set up to make sure SON is given more access to the port to carry out cargo examination.

A former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala had in October 2011, sent out eight of 16 agencies operating at the ports, the SON was one of the eight. The SON DG said that the level of fake products in Nigerian markets has risen between September 2015 and March 2016 and this has attracted the attention of the Federal Government. He said he had been given a matching order by the Minister of Trade and Investments, Mr. Okechukwu Enelama to‎ reverse the trend. He consequently vowed to cleanse the system in three months and to deal with airing importers.

Angya said that part of the efforts that have been taken so far is the signing of a pact between SON and China on cutting-off the supply and manufacturing of substandard products to Nigeria. The SON DG blamed Nigerian importers and clearing agents for master- minding ‎importation of fake items into Nigeria and collaborating with Customs officers to shield SON from being invited to inspect the goods.

He told the gathering that: “I have initiated collaboration at the highest level with the Comptroller General of Customs and we have set up a joint committee with the CG at the highest level which is working out the modalities for giving SON more access to the port”. “If we were at the port we would not be begging for more access, now we are begging to do our job, when Customs don’t invite us we cannot enter, we only know what is coming into the country when we are told”

“More than 70% of the goods get out without our being told, we only get to know when they are already on the high way, and because we want the nation to see us doing our job, we risk our lives and go running after the containers on the highway like motor park touts, this is because we are not being allowed to do it in the port‎”, he lamented.

“There has been a draft MOU with the Chinese for over 10 years which has not been signed until now, we were asking them to cut the influx of substandard products into Nigeria, ‎ they have accepted and it would no longer be business as usual, there would now be consequences for the Chinese and Nigerians dealing in substandard goods” he vowed.

Dr. Angya however lamented that the agency is understaffed and could not carry out its duties at all the ports and border stations. He said SON has 1,500 workers. He appealed to the Federal Government to allow SON recruit not less than 10,000 workers in order to be able to function effective.

Meanwhile, freight forwarding associations present at the forum including ANLCA, NAGAFF, NAFFAC, and National Council of Managing Directors declared support for SON in its new fight against substandard products.

One of them, the Chairman, Western Zone of ANLCA; Mr Mr John Ofobike commended SON’s efforts to stay in the ports, saying it was the right step to achieve its obligations. Also, the Public Relations Officer, NAGAFF; Mr Stanley Ezenga, said the association was worried about the influx of substandard goods into the country. Ezenga, however, said the association would partner with the SON to ensure that the problem was dealt with.

In the meantime, smugglers descended on some officers Nigeria Customs Service while on patrol along Ogun/Ole-Odan axis of Ogun State. A statement on the attack that was issued by the Nigeria Customs Service disclosed that four suspects have however been arrested in connection with the attack.

The statement added that its operation against the smugglers led to the seizure of 11 motor cycles which were used as means of conveyance of 250 bags of smuggled rice. Sounding undeterred, the statement added that the Nigeria Customs Service will not be cowed from performing its statutory functions, most especially in the area of anti-smuggling operations.

In the statement which was issued by the Service’s anti-smuggling unit, it acknowledged that: “These incessant attacks on officers and men of Nigeria Customs Service on patrol by “dare devil” smugglers have led to so many deaths and series of injuries recorded. In some cases, officers and men are left with deep machete cuts and various degrees of injuries”.

Harping on its responsibility as enforcement organisation, the statement stressed that: “The Service does not make laws but implement and enforce Government Fiscal policies as it concerns trade. Enforcement of these policies means compelling people to comply and this makes Customs work more difficult and challenging.” Recounting its successes in anti-smuggling, the statement noted that it’s aware that its clampdown on smugglers will earn more enemies for its personnel, but it maintained that there was no alternative to the anti-smuggling war.

“The government is making all efforts to ensure that all revenue meant for the government are collected and remitted and encourage local industries and revive industries that have been closed down due to smuggling activities. The launch of operation “hawk descend” an anti-smuggling campaign against the smugglers of frozen poultry products sometime last year witnessed a massive seizure of frozen poultry products across the country”, it stated.

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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