By DAPO OLAWUNI
Customs brokers in the Nigerian ports system have said that there is no ease of doing business at the ports, even as they condemned activities of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as major cause of false declaration of importations coming through the port.
Addressing journalists in Lagos last week, Vice President of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Dr Kayode Farinto alleged that 75% of importation coming into the country are non compliant because of the FOREX restrictions placed on over 80 import items by the CBN.
He expressed concerns that the CBN has abrogated so many powers to itself which impedes trade facilitation and ease of doing business, adding that the agency is now carrying out overlapping functions, such that belongs to the Ministry of Finance and the Nigeria Customs Service.
“We don’t have ease of doing business at our ports, it does not exist, we all know the difficulties our members go through in order to clear cargoes from the port.
“There are two policies, the monetary policy and the fiscal policy, the responsibility of CBN is to regulate the monetary policy, a situation where an item is not under import prohibition and yet you cannot open form M on them because it is under forex restriction by the CBN calls for concern
“For you to open form M on importation of tyres for instance, you need a clearance from CBN, and only the CBN Governor does the approvals.
We have more than 80 items on forex restrictions.
“CBN has succeeded in dabbling into fiscal policies, customs ought to have rushed to finance ministry to correct this anomaly, the CBN is carrying out an overlapping function, but they deliberately left it that way and allow people to be doing what they want, this is what encourages false declaration.
“CBN has abrogated many powers to herself and this is affecting importation, and Nigerians being what they are, since the items are not under restriction, they would want to bring these items in by all means.
“If the CBN does the right thing today, it would reduce false declarations by 75percent” Farinto stated
Dr Farinto stated that ANLCA as an association is calling for the return of the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) back to the ports for cargo examination. He said the absence of SON at the ports have encouraged importation of substandard products flooding Nigerian markets.
“The moment a consignment leaves the port, nobody should stop it again, this is a major trade barrier. The NICIS 2 of Customs did not factored in the SON and this has led to substandard products flooding the markets” he said
On the Vehicles Identification Number (VIN) Valuation policy of the Nigeria Customs Service, Dr Farinto explained that the grey areas have been fine tuned and that customs have acceded demands of the agents.
He added that rebate have now been taken care of in line with legal notice 30.
“It was a lofty idea, we sold it to them because there is no uniformity in the value of vehicles from different terminals, but they believed they could do it without our input and they inputed outrageous internet values.
“In a normal clime, the over N700milion storages that were paid Nigerians should have been paid by the service because they would be dragged to court, but you know Nigerians are not litigious, everything is about God, but we have to follow it
“The issue of accidented and salvaged vehicles were not factored into the VIN Valuation.
We told them that after fine tuning the VIN, they must bring it back to Lagos and do the presentation to the grassroot agents for them to know what we are doing.
We would now have a pilot scheme by picking a port like PTML Terminal and test run it for two weeks.
“On the NAC Levy 15% it was the Ministry of Finance that instructed customs to start implementing it. Going on strike is not the solution for now, it is injurious to our economy for now.
“Secondly, the terminal operators and shipping companies would not wave any demurrage, so we are engaging dialogue.
Customs have agreed to sensitize stakeholders on quarterly basis” he said