‘False declaration, non-compliance responsible for delay of cargo clearance’
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has blamed importers, exporters and agents for impeding trade facilitation and frustrating the ease of doing business at the ports, stressing that false declaration is the cause of delay in clearance.
The Service listed non-compliance alongside false declaration of cargo by traders as factors slowing down cargo clearance as well as frustrating the fast-track window, resulting in high demurrages.
The Comptroller-General of NCS, Hameed Ali, said tendency by importers and agents to false declaration has led to numerous seizures of illicit consignments shipped into the country with arrests and prosecution of foreign nationals and their local collaborators.
Ali, who stated this at the Apapa Area 1 Command, Lagos, said the numerous seizures by the Customs underscore the fact that the officers operate in a highly non-compliant environment.
“The problem we have is with non-compliant traders. That causes unnecessary delay at the point of examination.
“NCS officials do not witch hunt; in no way do we feel that traders should be made to suffer because we also are consumers in the market. We expect importers, exporters and agents to be honest and transparent in their activities because it makes our jobs easier.
“The amount of time they spend in the ports by importers who are compliant is extremely short, from when assessment is done and payment is made and goods moved to the Customs zone,” he added.
Ali said trade facilitation reduces costs, increases revenue as well as helps the development of local industries while improving economic prosperity.
He said to ensure a seamless trade environment; the NSC has integrated and automated over 90 per cent of its activities. He added that the e-customs project, which will take off in 2022, will put an end to physical contact.
Ali said the NCS has introduced a mobile application for verifying the authenticity of documents. He said the application would eliminate delay in verification of genuine Customs documents on highways, making it difficult for forgers to get away with their crimes while easing the journey for law-abiding citizens.
Speaking on the use of the acquired scanners to ensure seamless cargo examination and clearance, the Customs Area Controller (CAC), Apapa Area Command, Malanta Yusuf, said the scanners are not like other equipment that are easily deployed for use.
He noted that there are many things to be put in place, such as training of personnel to operate the scanners, reconfiguration, synchronisation of data and image storage. He said it would take about one year for the process to be completed for the full deployment of the scanners at the ports.