Unless the Federal Government quickly addresses the issue of extortion by its agencies at the ports, importers and the nation are bound to record some huge loses to demurrage, while the ports would likewise be congested when clearing agents begin their planned shutdown of the ports.
This followed a 21-day ultimatum by the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), which threatened to withdraw services from the ports unless the arbitrary charges by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), as well as dollar charges on terminal operators by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) were stopped.
The agents’ grouse, according to a statement by the ANLCA National Publicity Secretary, Dr. Kayode Farinto, includes the NCS “approbating and reprobating” by issuing the Pre-Arrival Assessment Reports (PAAR), undertaking the assessment and subsequently releasing cargoes from the ports.
This it does “with multiplicity of units in the clearance chain, which are unnecessarily encumbered by incessant alerts and arbitrary jack-up of Customs duties, which is not in compliance with international valuation principles,” the statement read.
“Where underpayments of Customs duty are alleged, the Customs unilaterally blocks (suspends) the Customs agents’ licences, which is not in tandem with Section 154 of Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA).”
ANLCA further alleged that the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) stop cargo delivery at shipping companies and terminals under the guise of conducting investigation, while the Directorate of State Services (DSS) heighten corrupt practices in the maritime industry with their “must-settle-me” syndrome.
Others listed in their charge sheet include the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Plant Quarantine and the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON).
It added that SON, “though with a lofty and patriotic agenda of minimising the entry of sub-standard goods, appears to have abandoned its statutory role of regulation and is now a revenue-generating agency through the imposition of high charges for its services.”