Prince Waheed Adeboje MD CEO of 1st Waded Worldwide Limited.
Story by Dili Utomi.
The perennial complaints by stakeholders in the Maritime sector particularly freight forwarders and licensed customs agents seem rather unabated and the rather constant musings and exchange of blames between the freight forwarders/licensed customs agents on one side and the Shipping Companies, the Terminal Operators and Nigeria Customs Service on the other hand and the apparent lack of will to find a common ground has become a real source of worry to many. We spoke with the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the 1st Waded Worldwide Limited, Prince Waheed Adeboje, a licensed customs broker with over 36 years of experience in the Maritime sector. He spoke his mind on the issue of the relationships between the various players in the industry and recalled with nostalgia the easy way that businesses were being carried out then.
Prince Adeboje said that with the benefit of hindsight that there seems to be a level of recourse to the dark ages in terms of doing businesses with the Customs and his in words “There has been a lot of backsliding on the part of the Nigeria Customs Service in trying to clear goods especially in getting what rate to pay from the valuation unit of the Customs”. He explains that in years gone by the Customs had a data base readily available to every stakeholder from which the rates and tariffs on each item is known, for example he says that for every category of vehicle, there was no ambiguity as to what rate to pay on that particular vehicle is and you go ahead to make payment with a copy of the bill of lading attached and the process of clearing was much easier then. He noted that there was better transparency then as the valuation units were open to making information accessible and available.
He noted that as an agent then, you could easily calculate the profit margin on a particular business as you already knew the amount to be paid as duty through the whole gamut of goods clearing and the derivable profit from it all. “A situation where the valuation unit gives you the value on an item and the corresponding duty to pay on such item and you make payment only to be queried later by another officer never existed then, it was unheard of then”.
He said that then, you got your valuation, make payment and attach the import documents for home use, the form C 188 with the B-lading, everything was signed and it was rather seemless.
Prince Adeboje lamented that these days, the situation has become bad. He said that now “You get your valuation done and make payment and an officer within the same Command will query the value given to you thereby making nonsense of the job of the valuation officer in charge, you then ask yourself if it is not the same Nigeria Customs Service”. He posited that we all know that no officer of the NCS will give you a value that is outside the range of the value for that particular item, so why the whole trouble? He asked. He said that there is also the issue of the implementation of the 10% age rebate on vehicles which is hardly followed and that that creates an area of disagreement within the system, this policy should be implemented without any hassle, but it has become a real problem. Agents who would not want to have further delays on the process of clearing their vehicles for example, will not dwell on the rebate, but would rather prefer to quickly clear his vehicle in order not to incur demmorage and other expenses. In his words “These are very serious issues”.
Prince Adeboje expresses worries that things are taking the turn for the worse as he complained that before now, an importer and his agent had the grace of seven days for the stacking of imported items before demmorage starts counting and then later, it was reduced to five days and that the five days has been further reduced to three days as it is now. He says that “The rules of operation have been bastardized by the terminal operators. “I had a terrible experience some weeks back, I had these two vehicles to be cleared and they were at the Five Star Logistics Terminal. Now, they were to move these vehicles to the Classic Bonded Terminal and I was still compelled to pay the rents and terminal charges at the Five Star Logistics to the tune of #200,000.00 and #264,000.00 respectively for the two vehicles for the period that these two vehicles were kept at the Five Star Logistics”. These issues he says are purely man-made administrative problems that are sort of arrangements geared towards the exploitation of freight forwarders/licensed customs agents and owners of cargoes going out and coming into the country.
He also spoke about the state of the access roads to the Ports as he remembers that the agents used to bill the importers for the whole processes of clearing of goods and the logistics aspects of delivering the consignment to the final destination at the owners warehouse or factory, but that they have elected to limit their operation to the process of documentation with a view to clearing the goods after which the owner makes the arrangement for the movement of the consignment to his preferred destination. He noted that the bad states of the roads with their attendant traffic jams have brought about exponential increase in the cost of transportation. The blame for the state of our roads goes directly to the government because they earn huge revenues from the Ports and it is incumbent on them to fix the access roads and indeed all roads.
On the question of the roles of the sectorial associations, Prince Adeboje explained that the Associations have continually brought the issues to the front burner, but like a lot of issues in the country, the different bodies like the Customs, the Shipping Companies and Terminal Operators have refused to change and do the right thing. He wonders how the same Customs will clear goods and release same only for some other unit of the same Customs to stop the evacuation of the consignment a few kilometers from the Port with the excuse that there is an underpayment in the tarrif on that consignment. The agent is again called in and all manner of inexplicable conditions are imposed on him which cost a lot more money and this is eventually passed down to the consumer.
In conclusion, Prince Adeboje said that he will never endorse illegality and so would want the Customs to enforce the law whenever anyone breaches the procedures or the laid down rules, but that they should treat the genuine agents with the respect and decency that they deserve, he advises that when proper valuation has been done and the right duty paid, people should no longer be troubled. He also advises the terminal operators to desist from all the exploitative tendencies and play by the rules as this will be better for everyone.
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