In this edition of Shippers Guide, Custom Public Relations Officer (PRO), Tin-Can Island Command, Chris Osunkwor says it is not difficult for the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to detect contra band goods imported into the country as well as educating you on how to handle goods during the festive period. Read on.
In this festive period a lot of goods are coming in, how do you detect the unwanted goods?
We have what we call code; like we have the import prohibition list, all the unwanted, prohibited, or restricted items that are not to be imported into the country. So you an importer must be sure that the things you are importing are not in the prohibition list. If they are not there, you are qualified for processing your declaration, at the end of which you collect the maximum revenue and then you go. But if they are in the prohibition list, automatically they are qualified for seizure; Customs will seize your containers.
In this festive period, what kind of goods do people mostly import into the country?
Naturally, this is Christmas seasons, people bring in goods made up garment, all materials, goods, items, that related to the mood of the season, like rice, people that are bringing in rice, government has spelt out the condition for them to import rice, if you are a miller, you pay at 30% or 20% duty and levy, but if you not a miller you will pay at 60%- 70% duty and levy, so all these goods that are related to a season are things that are coming in.
In case of congestion, how do you people tackle it?
We are equal to the task, because we have the manpower, not only just that, well trained manpower to withstand any kind of inflow of import, as they come, officials are everywhere in Tin-Can Island port, we are more than 880 officers, so looking at that may be almost 1000 officers, so we are well trained. We are deployed here and there, and we work late, we don’t even mind that government spelt out an official hours which is from 8am – 4pm, but if we have any cause to work beyond 4pm, we do so, so that we clear our desk every day before the next day, so we are equal to the task.
In that kind of situation what do you expect the agents to do so that the work will be easy for them too?
In the port we are the lead agency, we determine the rate of work in the port, though we are not done in the cargo clearance chain, we have the shipping company, we have the terminal operators, we have the freight forwarders and others along the line, but if Custom like we are up and doing well, we are equal to the task, we are working well, the agents has nothing than to set out there containers of work like customs did, that’s all, if they get this bill of lading, the importers contact them and give them the bill of lading, they go and capture their declaration, the Customs will pick their information and screen it, if the information is okay and correct, they will go for examination after the examination, the information you gave tallied with the one we saw in there, it is okay, we will release you and your containers.
Why is there always congestion during the festive period?
Any way for now ,there is no congestion, we are even praying that there will be congestion so that we will collect more revenue for government, so we have not seen any congestion for now, there is no congestion. But what we are facing now is scarcity of fund. The business people are complaining that they have containers but they don’t have money to clear them, they can’t get loan from bank, and they will import and people are not buying, it may be the result of politics.
So politics may be the cause of it all?
That is what we are talking, because now people are not talking of any other thing than politics.
What is going to happen to those containers that are still in the port?
As much as the importers are able to source fund, they will be talking them a bit, one after the other.
You said earlier that there was nothing like congestion?
Yes, there is nothing like that for now, but the only thing I told you that we are experiencing is that our revenue is not coming the way it supposed to be. We didn’t perform well in revenue collection as we did in the month of October. In October we made about N27.090 Billion, in November we were able to make 22-23 billion. We are attributing it to the scarcity of fund as we have been told by business community, they are complaining that they can’t lay hand on money to pay for their duties and get the containers out, so when money is not there some of them will not be able to source money and bring their containers out, you can see business activities seem to be at its lowest ebb, because unlike other time within the same period, there was bubbling of activities everywhere. Now look into the port, look outside everything is slow, something is wrong somewhere, that is it.
So is there anything you people can do about that?
Ours is just to mount for container position, you come here, you tell us you have provided a container that is not contra band, you make your declaration, pay your duties, we process it, release it, collect revenue for the government, then you go. So to determine availability of fund we don’t know.
What do you expect agents to do now that there is scarcity of fund?
The agents can do little or nothing about the scarcity of fund, when the fund is not there, is only the bank that can determine the flow, but I read in one of dailies that central bank intends to mop up about N500 Billion from the system, may be they think that there is too much money in circulation, I don’t know the reason they put forward for such, they say they are going to mop up, withdraw a lot of money from the system.