From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
One year after the Executive Order on the Ease of Doing Business took off in the sector, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has accused the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) of frustrating the initiative by posting fraudulent officers to the terminals, which has only necessitated multiple cargo examination.
Piqued particularly by the presence of customs at the port gates, the NPA Managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman, said at the second quarterly stakeholders’ meeting at Apapa that the duplication of efforts at the port gates only means that the NCS does not post credible officers for cargo examination at the bay.
Usman, who was represented by the Executive Director, Marine Operations, Dr. Sekonte Davies, stressed that customs frustrate the ease of doing business and “create problems” by laying siege to exiting containers at the port gates after inspecting the same cargo at the examination bay.
She told Assistant Controller Yahaya Idris, who is in charge of Ease of Doing Business at the Apapa Command and had blamed importers and clearing agents for false declaration as reason for the multiple posts, that he had only established that the officers sent for examination were not trustworthy from the beginning.
Your officers “are fraudulent; they are not doing their job and this is why you have to cross-check at the gate again. I will suggest that you send credible people to the terminals where examinations are conducted,” she added.
Idris had also explained that most of the fast-track cargoes from the ports are finished products, contrary to regulations, adding that the command was presently investigating 10 containers at its enforcement unit over false declaration, by which the importer and agent aimed to evade appropriate duty.
Nevertheless, he clarified that the ease of doing business order never outlawed customs at the port gates but did stipulate in articles 23 and 24 that “all examination agencies should fuse at the joint examination area. Nobody examines containers at the gates, what we do is cross check documents.
“Bear in mind that Apapa Customs does not do examination alone, we have some containers called fast track, and some going to the hinterland and ICDs in Kaduna and Kano.
“When we talk about the ease of doing business, the first set of problems we have is the importer. When you make honest declaration, you have no problem. Secondly, the freight forwarders themselves are not honest.”