SON, customs bicker over products examination at ports
The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has stated that the directive by the Federal Government that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) should always invite it for the daily cargo examination at the various terminals at the nation’s sea-ports, has not been compiled with.
Indeed, stakeholders interested in the matter have urged SON to take the matter up with to the federal government, adding that the refusal by NCS to carry along SON during inspection of products at the ports affects the ease of doing business mantra of the federal government.
This has reportedly led officials of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria to continually lay ambush for containers that have already being cleared out of the ports and released by the customs. Already, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has expressed shock at the development, noting that the action has led to the incessant stoppage of containers on the highways,
The LCCI, through its Director General, Muda Yusuf, noted that it was improper for the operatives of SON to be intercepting containers on the highways on account of some fees or charges that have not been settled by importers.It also argued that “where there were outstanding charges to be paid to SON or issues about SONCAP compliance, such matters should be dealt with before the container leaves the port”.
Justifying its action, SON had alleged that the Nigeria Customs Service has failed to invite its personnel for examination of containers, hence its decision to intercept containers after they are released at the ports.
An official however told The Guardian that, SON has been permanently shut out of the statutory cargo examination. He equally denied that SON had seized any container after inspection on the highways.The public Relations Officer (PRO) of Apapa Command of Customs; Nkeiruka Nwala, a Deputy Superintendent of Customs had defended the agency’s action saying the service cannot invite the Standards Organisation of Nigeria for cargo examination, because SON is no domiciled in the ports.
Nwala said that for cargoes that require the Standards Organisation of Nigeria Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP) certificate, men of the Nigeria Customs Service have always demanded that from importers, even before duties on the cargoes are collected.
She said: “SON is not domiciled in the ports, it’s just like saying that items that require end-user and then you say that the officials at the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) that customs should be inviting them”
“If they (importers) have any document they are supposed to provide from such before cargo examination, they go to SON on their own, it has nothing to do with Customs. If they are importing items that require SON certification, they go on their own to get the certification.
“So if you don’t have it (certification), we will send you back to SON. So the work of SON is not about examination, it is product certification. So customs cannot be inviting SON; for what? It is a certification and documentary thing”, she insisted.
According to her “But if for any reason SON now have an import that they suspect the certification process or anything, all they need to do is to send a message via the NICIS 2 platform and notify that they have interest in a container that is it.”
“If an importer or his agent imported an item that requires SONCAP, we all have a list of items that require SONCAP we only ask the importer to bring the certificate, they are part of the documents you must provide”, she explained.
The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has however advised the Standards Organisation of Nigeria to report the Nigeria Customs Service to the Vice President, if the service fails to invite them for examination of cargoes at seaport.
According to the Director General of LCCI, Yusuf interception of containers on the roads would affect ease of doing business policy of the federal government urging the organisation to report the NCS to the Vice President who is in charge of implementing the policy ease of doing business at the seaports.
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