A cross section of leaders on the high table at the occasion.
Story by Dili Utomi.
The age long squabbles among members of the freight forwarding and licensed customs agents seem to be giving way to a new period of mature relationship that would engender the needed cohesion, unity of purpose and the focus that should benefit most practitioners of the trade. This is the view of many as the five registered sectorial bodies in this subsector came together on Monday at the Rockview hotel Apapa to deliberate on the urgent issues that are germane to smooth and profitable business environment under the aegis of the All Freight Forwarders Forum.
Dr. Rauf Ladipo, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike and Dr. Boniface Okey Aniebonam as the event started.
The five registered bodies which include the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF),
National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN) National Association of Freight Forwarders and Airfreight Consolidators (NAFFAC) following initial closed door meetings and discussions met again in a conference in front a packed main auditorium of the hotel. The theme of the conference was “The way forward on challenges militating against cargo clearance” had participants also included from the
chambers of commerce, shipping and trucking business and other stakeholders.
A cross section of participants at the event.
The leaders of the various associations including Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike of ANLCA, Dr. Boniface Okey Aniebonam of NAGAFF, Dr. Rafiu Ladipo of NCMDLCA, Mr. Adeyinka Bakare of NAFFAC, Mr. Innocent Elum of ARFFN and Rev. Jonathan Nicol of the LCCI spoke on the various topics and set the stage for the very useful discussion that was all inclusive. Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike who moderated the meeting started by stating that most of the practitioners there present have decades of experience in the business and are there tired of the many difficult situations that freight forwarders are presently subjected to hence the need for this forum. Dr. Aniebonam spoke about the fact that the freight forwarders have been on the receiving end of arbitrariness because of the fact that they have not been united.
The agenda for the conference was set on five issues which centred on the following topics: Arbitrary jack-up of the value of Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR). Multiplicity of Customs Units intercepting exited goods arbitrarily on the roads. Practitioners Operating Fees (POF)/ CRFFN elections. ETO Electronic call-up system. Again, it must noted that the same kind of conference was also taking place at the same time in Port Harcourt.
Group photograph of participants.
These various resolutions were reached on the discussed issues. It was generally agreed that the Nigeria Customs Service has unilaterally jacked up the values of the Pre- Arrival Assessment Report ( PAAR) to a minimum benchmark of #1 million for a 20ft Container and #2 million for a 40ft Container, not minding if such goods i
are valued below the amount. That the tariffs of some goods are not well-defined with several having same HS Codes, which the Customs use as a tool to manipulate the values of items and forced it on importers to pay as duty. That the NCS has refused to be professional in valuation of goods in Nigerian ports, despite being a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and World Customs Organization (WCO). That because of revenue targets given to the NCS by the government, the Service is using all means and coercive powers to arm twist importers to pay unwarranted duties. That the primary function of the Customs as enshrined in the World Customs Organisation ( WCO) and World Trade Organisation (WTO) both which Nigeria is a signatory is Trade Facilitation and not Revenue Generation. The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA ) who were at the event stressed the need for Freight Forwarders and Customs Brokers to always know their importers names and genuine addresses to avoid being victims of drug trafficking consignments.
The Forum also frowned at the incessant alerts and interception of Containers duly examined by a joint physical examination team carried out by Customs and other security agencies in the ports. They wondered about the law that allows Customs to mount check points within the port area, when a court allows 40km distance from the port, before any Customs check point.
The Forum however cautioned it’s members to desist from wrong declaration and be compliant in all considerations so as not to encourage multiple Customs Units mounting check points along the port access roads and the highways. There should be no benchmark for PAAR on consignments and that such should be based only on value. The Federal Government should desist from giving revenue targets to Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) as it has become a tool for exploiting Nigerians.
A group photograph of ladies at the event.
The Forum also considered the issue of the CRFFN election as they nurse the fear that the Government may hijacked the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), if the registered associations refused to put their houses in order. They therefore agreed that the five (5) registered Associations should have representation of 6:6:1:1:1 in the CRFFN forthcoming board elections .
The Forum proposed that CRFFN comes to Lagos instead of Abuja to conduct the governing board elections due to the security problems in the Country. They stressed that aside from the agreed representations from the five (5) Associations, no other candidate/ candidates should be allowed to contest the Council board elections.
The Forum also passed a vote of confidence on ETO electronic call-up system, although stakeholders highlighted some areas for improvement. Members complained that ETO is expensive, as extortions of between N100, 000 to N150, 000 are being collected by security agencies along the ports access roads before a truck can access the Lagos ports.
On export, the Forum lamented that ETO is frustrating it’s activities and that a minimal impact of ETO has been felt by the cargo owners as it still takes two to three weeks for a truck to access the port from Ijora . The members complained that ETO doesn’t allow port users utilize the truck assets at their disposal, instead it mandates the use of certain trucks which may not meet their needs and requirements. They also complained that all containers coming from Mile 2 have to go through MOB park to access Tin Can Port, while other four access routes have been closed. Again, these is the issue of the TICT, Ports & Cargo terminals are making Agents pay demurrage because of ETO complications as shipping lines also enjoy demurrage charges. They say that Terminals don’t communicate with the management of ETO as regards the availability of space for certain shipping lines’ empty containers as such they allow containers to approach the port gate before they issue such information and this Communication gap has led to indiscriminate packing of trucks along the ports access roads.
The Forum appointed a 5-man Committee to brainstorm on the best approach to manage Eto.
These recommendations were reached. That Consignees should be more compliant in order to limit the conflict with the Customs and unfortunate hike in duties. That the recent hike of PAAR is not captured in CEMA and the increment is an abuse of Customs powers as such should be stopped.
That Customs should be reported to the Minister of Finance on their activities to truncate the Ease of doing business of the Federal Government and hindering trade facilitation. And that if the Minister failed to address the issue, the Customs should be reported to the President. That there should be no benchmark for PAAR on consignments and that all goods should be valued through the Valuation unit. The Federal Government should desist from giving revenue targets to Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) as it has become a tool for exploiting Nigerians
That the Customs should desist from Valuation of goods through internet prices, but on real cost value. That a strong-worded letter quoting relevant laws should be written and addressed to the management of Nigeria Customs Service on most of its abuses and indiscriminate uses of power on purely trade issues. The Forum should seek to engage the leadership of all security agencies obstructing speedy cargo clearance from the ports.
That should all avenues to draw government and it’s agencies to their plights failed, Freight Forwarders and Customs Brokers should embark on industrial action, such as strike. That Freight Forwarders should be given a percentage of the revenue generated via their licenses annually. That Customs should stop forthwith the interception of already duly examined and released containers from the ports. That, the Federal Government should delist number 8 on the AfCFTA Exports prohibition items, which stipulates that goods imported into the country cannot be re- exported, leaving importers handicapped when the imports don’t meet their expectations.
They also proposed to meet at a freight forwarders consultative forum in two days time.
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