EMERGING BEST PRACTICES IN FREIGHT BUSINESS AND CUSTOMS FACILITATION, THE DWINDLING CARGO THROUGHPUT IN THE CUSTOMS PORTS

 

March 10, 2015

Press Release

EMERGING BEST PRACTICES IN FREIGHT BUSINESS AND CUSTOMS FACILITATION, THE DWINDLING CARGO THROUGHPUT IN THE CUSTOMS PORTS

 It should be very clear and obvious to practitioners that cargo throughput has drastically reduced in the Customs ports leading to low collection of Customs duty.  It is also obvious that the Nigeria Customs Service is not leaving any stone unturned with a view to blocking all loop-holes that may lead to revenue leakages.  Whereas it is our responsibility to protect members engaged in legitimate businesses in the Customs ports and border stations, we may not be able to fight for and protect any agent who is not compliant to extant rules and regulations governing cargo clearance out of Customs ports.

The Nigeria Customs Service from every indication is starting with her officers over any infraction leading to revenue loss.  Accordingly a number of officers have been suspended while investigations are on-going to ascertain their culpability with a view to discipline others in that regard.

Whereas it is our duty to inform members from our strategic location, the Nigeria Customs Service intelligence unit may have changed their modus operandi of operation.  They are seemingly returning to their basic operational tactics – to play along and report any suspected infraction.  With this development, agents may wish to understand that there is no need for shortchanging processes and procedures because such criminal acts shall be reported.  The new CIU or whatever name called in the future may portend.

What we see coming from the Customs in due time is that the Nigeria Customs Service may likely become more strict in evoking relevant Sections of the Customs Excise Management Act (CEMA) to deal with issues of concealment, false declaration, wrong descriptions of import, over invoicing, under valuation and under invoicing of imports.

We should note that Sections 46, 47, 164 and untrue declaration in general attract severe punishment including but not limited to seizure of import and prosecution of offenders.

At the moment we could perceive that the Nigeria Customs Service may be stricter in dealing with deliberate abuse of due process in Customs operations.  We wish to advise that freight agents who want to have peace must now imbibe the principles of best practices.  In other-words the need for genuine declaration for Customs purposes cannot be over emphasized.  We must emphasize that it is unprofessional and idiotic for any freight agent in the name of securing jobs to allow an importer to use his/her personal company as the consignee. This is unbelievable because of the inherent danger therein.  What happens if the real importer decides to risk importation of goods which fall under absolute prohibition like firearms, cocaine, blank invoice and currency etc.

It is also unbelievable that a freight forwarder in the comfort of his/her office decides how much Customs duty he or she will pay as if he/she is a proper Customs officer to take such decisions.  Without prejudice to Destination Inspection guidelines as to self declaration and assessment thereto, the truth remains that such declaration must be done in utmost good faith and honesty. We must remind all practitioners that falsification of import documents for Customs purposes is an offense as forgery carries 7 years imprisonment.

It is also very important that we highlight the ongoing fraud and waste of resources.  It is to our knowledge that some freight agents do connive with some unscrupulous officers to inject non-existing items into Customs documentation with a view to reducing appropriate duty payable.  At the moment, the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) is compiling names of such officers in Abuja PAAR Ruling Center for the attention of the Comptroller-General of Custom’s action.  NAGAFF is also interested to know those freight agents who may be distorting due processes of PAAR regime with a view to submitting their names for sanction by the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN)

However we must advise the Nigeria Customs Service that if we must go professional in the act of freight business and Customs facilitation in Nigeria, there must be synergy between CEMA and CRFFN the extant statutory documents of these regulatory agencies. The use of Corporate bodies as licensed agents of the Customs is not helping the ongoing reforms and compliance thereto in Customs operations.  It is apparent that practitioners are hiding under corporate contract to risk Customs duty rather than being an individual liability. The CGC’s attention is hereby drawn once more to this strategic thinking and concept of ensuring best practices in the Customs ports and approved border stations.

It is the will of NAGAFF and its members to join hands with NCS in building capacity, integrity and professionalism in Customs operations.

DR. B. O. ANIEBONAM

Founder NAGAFF

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