By DAPO OLAWUNI
Licensed Customs Agents operating at Nigerian ports have accused the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) of collecting excess samples whenever they are invited to participate in cargo examination, and that in most cases, the samples are never returned.
While giving a goodwill message at the stakeholders meeting organised by SON in Lagos on Tuesday, a chieftain of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Prince Ozo Chukwura made the allegation.
Chukwura alleged that SON operatives pick excess sample of products from containers and after verifying, they sold the samples rather than return them to the owners.
He alleged that most times, expensive cargoes like generator sets, washing machines and sophisticated electronics are picked up by SON officials under the guise of sampling and they are sold off afterwards.
According to him, whenever less interesting cargoes like chemicals are required for sampling, the officers are usually reluctant and in such cases, they pick a single bag.
Chukwura’s position further highlighted majority of the port stakeholders argument on why SON should not be allowed to return to the port and conduct its operations, rather, it should be invited by the Nigeria Customs Service where necessary.
Recall that the Federal Government in October 2011 directed that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and eight other federal agencies operating at the nation’s seaports to vacate.
The strategic essence of the directive according to the former Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. MrsNgoziOkonjo-Iweala, was to decrease the number of government agencies at seaports, and thereby, enable quicker clearance of cargoes, reduce cost of doing business at the seaports and boost government’s efforts to generate revenue.
Speaking, the ANLCA top man said “If SON wants us as stakeholders to comply, they should also comply, it should not be a case of the rat chasing the cat, we cannot continue to fold our hands, everyday, you see SON staff come into the port, in the next two months they start riding big cars because of the proceeds from samples, they pick heavy items, but when you have chemical imports, they will tell you to drop it”
“Where are these samples going to? This is our annoyance over what SON is doing. We would be willing to tell the DG about things that his officers are doing which he might not be privy to know” he said
He argued that after drawing samples from a company importing an homogeneous goods for so long, SON ought to have gotten a database of every company making importation into Nigeria, but rather, they still go ahead to deplete part of every container, all in the name of drawing samples.