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Why Agents Patronize Kirikiri Lighter Terminal – Soleji

By Okuneye Moyosola
Comrade Goddy Sewa Soleji is the Chairman, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT) chapter of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA). In this interview with MMS Plus, he bares his mind on the numerous challenges facing agents, delivers verdict on the state of the Lagos port access roads and the underlying factors that impede free flow of traffic.
Excerpts:
 
Importers and agents face enormous difficulty in moving containers to where might be the best place for them to clear their cargoes. The procedure is hectic as 9-11 signatures are needed for the transire document. Have you had such cases where you had challenges in the process of transferring containers?
 

It’s not just about where you like to clear your cargo or where it is easier for you. It’s all about the law. The reason the federal government grants licenses to offdock terminals is to decongest the nation’s foremost ports. Hence, the government knows that we have more of import and today, the main ports like Apapa and Tin Can port don’t have the capacity to absorb the import of all containers coming into this country. This is why there is always congestion at Tin Can and Apapa ports and that is why government thought it wise that they need to issue licenses to bonded terminals in order to decongest the ports.

The ability to move cargoes to bonded terminals doesn’the only ensure free flow of traffic in and out of the port but also prevents loss of revenue.

The containers will be accounted for as they would be escorted by Customs enforcement units to the desired bonded terminals. The duty will be collected accordingly and everything will be fine. However, when the port is over congested, a lot of abnormalities will happen.

There are difficulties that agencies and importers face in moving their containers from the port to the bonded terminals. The Comptrollers and the officers at the ports, either Apapa or Tin Can always want the container to be there so that the revenue will come to their own purse. However, they have forgotten that the revenue is for federal government and Customs account is one.

The reason why some of us still bring our containers to Kirikiri is because we are resident members representing ANLCA at this terminal. As a resident official and chairman of an association, I want the Command to be functional. We want to assist the Customs in this Command in generating revenue. We want to have a conducive working environment. As you can see, this place is not congested like Tin Can or Apapa. These are the reasons why you see us going through all the long and cumbersome processes in getting our containers transferred to this area in order for us to pay our duties and clear.

How has the new exchange rate meted out by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) affected your businesses?

It is worrisome. That policy is not right especially with the economic situation in Nigeria. The economy does not call for that implementation by the CBN. Increasing exchange rate for cost of clearing is at the disadvantage of the stakeholders. When the exchange rate is increased, the duty is increased indirectly and this will also affect the nation’s economy. If an importer goes to the market and purchased goods for $10 and pays his freight, duty and clears consignments, he must account for all he has spent in the importation. This is what he is going to consider before fixing the selling price. That is, if you were buying a particular item for one naira before, it will become one naira, 50 kobo.

We don’t need this increment at this time. What we need is to manage what we have now. If in the nearest future, the economy becomes stable, then we can consolidate and do whatever we want in terms of exchange rate.

Do you think that if CBN had reached out to stakeholders in the industry to get their opinion, it would have been better?

Of course. The professional thing to do is to consult the stakeholders. This is why government will continue to get it wrong because they have refused to apply professionalism and engage the professionals in that field involved in making policy. In advanced countries, what they do is to have stakeholders meeting with those concerned and seek their opinion. What they are going to contribute is not going to be final because they are not the regulators or policy makers. We are not the policy makers but we are part of the stakeholders that they can consult and they can also get some facts that they can work with which will give them the right policy to implement. However, they have failed to do that. They just make decisions without engaging us. It is totally wrong. We need to build this nation together. Stakeholders and Customs brokers have a lot of role to play in the nation’s economy. They must engage us for better policy and implementation as long as this Customs brokerage business is concerned.

On the state of the roads and the ease of traffic, we have observed that the Apapa wharf is better than the past for the last 3 weeks. For the TinCan, Mile two, kirikiri axis, we have not seen the free flow of traffic. How has it affected business and what advice do you have for the government?

By the presidential order, the government has done well. I commend the government for that. However, there are some things needed to be done before that pronouncement so that it doesn’t look as if the government made a pronouncement and things are not working.

We all know that the condition of the road is terrible. Government needs to fix the road and clear the drainage system. The stakeholders also need to caution ourselves and avoid littering the whole place with nylon and plastics. By the time all these measures are put in place, then when implementation comes, it will be effective. But when those things are not done, it seems like the government is not working. Even at the Apapa port, there is no free flow of traffic. In a place where there is free flow of traffic, you cannot stay on the queue for 10 minutes. if the call up system is used, the road is good and there is free flow in an out of the port. We are not there yet. Let us allow the government to know the truth. The president and the vice president are our leaders and what they need from us is our prayers and information. If they don’t have information, they would not know what to do. We must continue to cry out and tell them the truth. We must tell them that the order is not working as well as the reason behind it. We cannot get any solution without engaging the concerned stake holders for a permanent solution. We must find out the cause of the situation so that we can properly address it from the root.

In the freight forwarding industry and Customs brokerage, over the years, we have not heard much about the place of training which is a very critical aspect of your business. What is the future like for freight forwarders?

Training and retraining is required for good and effective professionalism and for a total reform of the industry. The topic of freight forwarding and customs brokerage is a very vast one. It touches so many area. I graduated from Nigerian Institute of shipping and i read shipping. The topic is so wide. It covers transport, logistics, shipping, maritime law, and statistics. When there is school on that, you will be vast in knowledge. You will be trained in all areas and this makes you different from others in the industry compared to all those that are trained in the field alone. There is need for more awareness on training and retraining of customs brokers so that they can become professionals. when you are properly trained, you will do things in line with international standards. The business of freight forwarding and customs brokers is an international business and whatever we do here in our country must meet up to the international standards. Through the effort of our immediate past national president and the association at large, we were able to travel to more than 10 countries all over the world for training and that makes us  better in the profession.

What is the basic requirement for training now?

Customs is part of the training. Things are not the way it ought to be because customs have the responsibility to train customs brokers. Under the international law, the training that customs go through must also engage the stakeholders too. The same training customs brokers undergo, the stakeholders also need to undergo it too so that they will always be on the same page and they can achieve better result. We are not saying that we should go for all the training they go for but trainings related to tariff and trade, clearance procedure for clearing of goods, import and export as well as all others related to us.  However, because of the situation on ground, some of us have to find a way to get those training abroad and also read books. There need to be an allocation for customs to train custom brokers so that they will all be on the same page.

On one or two occasion, customs trained us in the past and after that training, there was no certificate. If they are supposed to train us annually, quarterly or monthly and they train us once in a decade, can that be regarded as training? They didn’t give certificate too. The certificate is the evidence that we were properly trained and we can’t just say we are trained without a proof to show for it.

How does marine insurance work in Nigeria. A lot of times containers fall on the Tincan- Mile two road. What is the environment for insurance on these cargoes?

Insurance in this nation is not working effectively. In Nigeria we are lacking behind despite having all it takes to be the best in the world but corruption is the problem.  All those organizations are not sincere. I am not accusing the insurance firms. I am also referring back to the stakeholders and the government has also gotten it wrong. There is need for us to do things professionally.

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