Thursday, 7 October 2021

Special Report: Association Of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA)Presentation To The House Of Representatives Committee On Customs And Excise


"Protocols:

The association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) is here today, to inform the House Committee on Customs on the state of affairs in the maritime industry, particularly as regards the Nigerian Customs headship administration and operations. Sir, we received a letter of invitation from your committee where the present management team of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has alleged that members of our association are obstructing her officials from conducting one hundred percent (100%) examination on cargoes at the sea ports.

Distinguished members of the hallowed chambers, we state unequivocally that the members of this association are responsible, enlightened people and have no power to obstruct the men / officers of Nigerian Customs from conducting one hundred percent (100%) examination on cargo, because we are aware that obstructing an officer(s) from performing his/her statutory functions negates and contravenes the customs and Excise Management ACT (CEMA CAP 45) LFN section 11 which stipulates the punishments for anyone found culpable.”

Our Position:

ANLCA is a law abiding association which comprises of professional Customs Brokers and what we advocate for is that Federal government should provide scanners in our ports to fastened and facilitate trade particularly to shorten the preponderance time spent on 100% examination. We also believe that it is not in line with international best practices to subject many containers of homogenous goods, to 100% physical examination, it wastes lot of time, gives room for extortion, delays cargoes unnecessarily in the ports and the officers of Nigeria Customs Service has never see us as partners in progress instead they have refused to see reasons with our demand.

“Nigerian Customs Service is shifting blames due to her incapacitation to meet up with challenges of one hundred percent examination of all cargoes which is cumbersome and they knows that it is an old style and not in line with international best practices. We have been clamoring for provision of modern scanning machines in the last five years.”

On incessant Alerts on Declaration, the ANLCA posited that “there are two zones in the clearance procedure, the Traders zone and the Customs zone and it is expected that when customs brokers make declarations (intention to clear a cargo and generate an assessment for duty payment). Customs are supposed to allow duty to be paid on this declaration. if there will be any intervention, Chairman and Members of the committee, it will interest you to know that alerts are placed on ninety percent of declarations made in all the ports as soon as assessments are generated (i.e. even in the traders zone).

“Multiplicity of Customs Units makes alert on a declaration and it is expected that the broker/ Agent must go through all these Units to either convince them on the need to vacate the alerts or must settle his way through and each of these Units challenge your declaration on the allegation of low duties. The alerts are

CPC alerts , Valuation Alerts, CIU alerts

Comptroller monitoring Unit alerts, DC Revenue alerts, Headquarters alerts,

CGC’s Strike Force and also alerts declaration.

“Sir, it is rather unfortunate that this present management team never preaches professionalism, but instead circumvents all process just to meet up with the Federal government targets, self-impose targets and their personal targets. The World Customs Organisation (WCO) in her wise thinking believes that some people may remove cargo from the Customs zone without passing through due process, hence the creation of Post Clearance Audit acronym PCA, which is responsible to exhume, do a post mortem on any declaration that is perceived to have been cleared from the ports without due process.”

Our Position:

“The leadership of this association believes that having more than seven (7 alerts) on a declaration negates the trade facilitation agreement which Nigeria is a signatory to and we have advised the Customs management team on countless number of times to strengthen the Post Clearance Audit, in order to avoid unnecessary distortion of clearance procedures.

“Incessant alerts breeds and encourages corruption and it is making the management team to arm twist the trading community by slamming spurious Demand Notices (DN) on the importers/ trading community. This incessant alerts is killing trade gradually in the maritime industry because, it contravenes the first criteria of World Bank in ascertaining the Logistic Performance Index Tanking Criteria (LPI) of any nation. This is because; there is no predictability in our Customs operations any longer. If Customs predictability is no longer available, it will definitely discourage Foreign Direct Investment into Nigerian economy, (FDI)”.

THE BROUHAHA OVER JACK UP DUTIES ON PAAR

“Distinguished members, the introduction of Pre – Arrival Assessment Report called “PAAR” to cargo clearance was a welcome development and to which our association supported. We supported the introduction of PAAR because it is our home grown documents and a departure from the 1% of FOB given to pre – shipment inspectors which were foreigners. Sir at the PAAR ruling Centre, the under listed departments treats documents, before PAAR is eventually issued.

PAAR Ruling Centre: The Pre – Arrival Assessment Report called PAAR was introduced, in December, 2012 when Alhaji DIkko Nde Abdullahi was the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service. Pre – Arrival Assessment Report with acronym “PAAR” replaced the then Risk Assessment Report and the management team of customs called the office that generate it “ PAAR ruling Centre”. When an e- form “M” has been approved by the Commercial bank and it has been electronically allocated a BA number. The Agent now submits the final import documents to his bank, (do not forget that the Form ‘M’ was opened with proforma invoice). The bank having been satisfied with all documentation, particularly the final invoice, then generates a consignment number, this consignment number takes all the documents to the Customs portal, where the consignment number is registered at the PAAR ruling Centre. These process ensured , Scrutinizing officer (S.O), FDVO – Final Document and Verification Officer, CVO – Classification and Valuation Officer, PAAR Review and Registration Officer (PAARO) and Scrutinizing Officer (S.O).

“The Customs allocates the consignment number so registered to a scrutinizing officer and he ensures that he cross – checks all documents such as Bill of Lading Number, BA number and if the commodity is a regulated item, (by SON) he ensures that Standard Organization Conformity Assessment Certificate (SONCAP), NAFDAC permits is attached and that all import documents like combined Certificate of Value and Origin (CCVO), are all attached. Once satisfied he pushes it to a final documents verification officer (FDVO), Final Documents Verification Officer (FDVO).The final documents verification officer is a senior officer to a scrutinizing officer, he double checks all the import documents sent by the bank. He also ensures he checks for the ports of loading. Ports of discharge if not satisfied, he queries it and sends back to the bank, but if satisfied, he okays it and send to the next senior officer called Classification and Valuation Officer (CVO).

“Classification and Valuation Officer

Note the six Valuation Principles:

Where the Customs value cannot be determined on the basis, it will be determined using one of the following methods:

The Transaction Value

The Transaction Value of identical goods

The Transaction Value of similar goods.

The Deductive Value Method.

The Computed Value Method.

The fall – back Method.

The above valuation methods must be used in sequential order.”

PAAR REVIEW AND REGISTRATION OFFICER (PAARO) – If a PAARO Officer is not satisfied with the level of jack up of value done by CVO Officer, he jacks it up by the appropriate percentage, but if satisfied with the work of classification and valuation Officer, once he is satisfied he prints the Pre – Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) copy and sends to Risk Profiling Officer (RPO).

RISK PROFILING OFFICERS: Here the PAAR printed is cross- checked against any mistake made on the PAAR. Once done, the PAAR is electronically tranmitted to the bank and a copy sent to the importer/ consignee in order that clearance of the cargo can commence.

Lack of uniform value on vehicle: ” Vehicles of the same year of manufacture having the same cubic capacity pay different duties in the ports. All our efforts as professional customs brokers to make the management team of customs standardize and have uniform values fell on deaf ears, even when we told them that our members are tired of giving bribes and being called names like thieves by their principals.

We advocated that we should fashion the Ghana, (G – net) method of having same uniform duties according to the year of manufacture by implementing Vin Number and tittle of vehicle which states the actual year of manufacture and mileage was not embraced.

” We now have a situation where at each port, agent are at the mercies of officers who claim to be assisting them by giving different values depending on your capacity to settle and after payment of this duties, these vehicles are intercepted by the Federal Operations Unit of customs, thereby subjecting them to another duty payment under the pretext that, they have been given compromised duties at the port level.

On the jack up of PAAR, the ANLCA said, “The jack up of PAAR is an attempt by the Customs to issue benchmark on commodities and this was tried about four years ago, but we condemned it. In order to meet their target and be seen to have generated more revenue, they resort to uncustoms attitudes by arm twisting importers and slamming spurious Demand Notices (DN) on us.”

25% Penalty on Demand Notices:

Whenever, there is an infraction or Demand Notice to be issued, the twenty – five percent (25%) penalty is slammed on the Customs brokers. They are misinterpreting CEMA section. 161 & 164 (See Annexure 2).The above section is very explicit and should be subjected to legal interpretation because of its mis-application by the present management team. This is also causing inflation in trade, thereby making officers to armtwist agents to succumb to giving bribes because of fear of the 25% penalty. Whenever they are subjected to issuing demand Notices.”

Our Position:

We want to urge the honorable members to expedite action on the amendment of the Customs and Excise Management Act, as the present one aside being draconic is obsolete and due for amendment. The world Trade Organisation (WTO) has liberalized trade, but unfortunately, we are still living in the mediaeval era due to most of our laws”.

Interception of Cargoes: Sir, already exited cargoes are intercepted by Customs various Units. There are over five different types of Customs Units that are permanently mounting road blocks between Mile 2, along Tincan – Island axis and Area ‘B’ along Ijora – Wharf road. These various Units stop and conduct examination on cargoes that have been duly examined and released by very senior officers in the ports. The annoying part is the way containers are hijacked in a commando style at night while clearing Agents and truck drivers are beaten up mercilessly and all efforts to make the management team of customs see reason with this inhumane act led to the blackmailing of the Executive members of our association. We even showed them a circular that emanated from the then DCG Enforcement that forbids mounting road blocks. The under listed units intercept cargoes exited from the ports.Federal Operations roving van,

SWAT van, CGC Strike Force van, CGC Compliance Team van and Customs Police van”.

AT FOU: “I wish this committee take a visit to any Federal Operations Units, within the country and you will be marveled at what happens there, for instance in Lagos, once your container is intercepted and taken to Federal Operations Unit, there are over twenty five tables to process your documents. For Demand Notices to be issued Agents/ importers are forced to go through these twenty – five tables/ points to get their cargoes released and you are expected to drop N5000 ( five thousand Naira) on each table before your document is treated.”

Level of Compliance “It is rather unfortunate that, NCS does not keep records and data, however, I can tell you that the level of compliance has been increasing tremendously in the last five years. The only discouraging thing is that, the Men/ Officers on the field even frustrates our members when they have good declaration, while the other one’s are given express clearance, just because money has exchanged hands. We urge you to encourage brokers by giving incentives to us. If for instance Agents are given 1% of money they generate annually, it will not only encourage Agents to want to increase their compliance level, but will not allow any importer circumvent any procedure that can lead to revenue leakage.”

NEW SCANNING MACHINE:

“Permit me to inform this honorable House that there has been provision for new scanning machines throughout the ports in the last one week. In view of this, we urge these honorable members to invite NCS to state the procedure of cargoes clearance henceforth because, once a container is scanned and there is no discrepancy in the image analysis, such goods should be released without further delays and must not be subjected to any procedural bureaucracy which is tantamount to unnecessary delay. Sirs, you must stamp your authority to insist that NCS should release a white paper stating procedures to follow on implementation of Customs examination as regards to scanning machines before they begin to find jobs for the boys at the expense of our nation.”

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