The Executive Secretary/ Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NSC, Barr. Hassan Bello stated this while addressing journalists, at a one-day awareness clinic for importers at the International Trade Fair markets, on the theme: Need for Compliance to Cargo Clearance Guidelines at the Nigerian Ports and Understanding the International Cargo Tracking Note (CTN), in Lagos, yesterday.
According to Bello who was represented by the Deputy Director Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Unit of the Council, Chief Cajetan Agu, “I will say that today’s occasion was a success because everybody is preparing for Christmas and traders naturally will want to make the most of the season, so in the light of this I will say that the turnout was good.
“Presently, They are complying with the CTN registration because at the moment we have over 60 ,000 shippers registered with us and we are expecting more. The CTN kicked- off on the November 3rd 2015 and by January 2016, it is government decision that if they do not comply with the scheme the carrier will be penalized but right now we are not telling anybody about the penalty, when we get to the bridge we will cross it, definitely there will be penalties and the government is working out the modalities.”
Bello also urged shippers not to hesitate to report any case of interception of containers at the market gate to the Council, as such activities is frowned upon by the government.
“It is illegal for the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), to intercept containers after passing through clearing and is released from the ports. There is no way the Council will know that containers are intercepted at the Trade Fair market gate and do nothing about it, the Council was established to protect the interest of importers and exporters and they are supposed to register with the Council but on several occasions, when we call them to come and learn how to improve their business, they will not come out rather they will demand for incentives like money or even food before they will attend. We are aware that there are some government officials who are corrupt but we are in the era of change and with time things will be done the way they are supposed to be.” He affirmed.
In a paper presentation by the CEO Aulic Nigeria Limited, Prof. Nick Eze, he said, “Importers should not allow their agents to encourage them to cut corners, no matter the mistake an agent makes the importer pays, if he refuses to pay his cargo remains in the ports and after a stipulated period it will be put on auction. It is important to follow real process, you could even end up in jail for trying to cut corners.”
He appealed to Shippers’ Council on the need to engage shippers in periodic dialogue and to negotiation with shippers when they default rather than always being quick to punish them, adding that sometimes importers make mistakes.
He stated that the Council needs to train shippers to have the right attitude, to have employable skills and to be competent and also to bridge the gap between traders and manufacturers because they need to work together, as none can succeed alone.
During the interactive question and answer session that followed, Barr. Osuala Nwagbara averred, “One of offences we commit during clearing is that the importers should not allow agents to pay duty on their behalf because the agent could divert the money elsewhere or even use it to solve his personal problems, the agent could actually present forged papers to Customs and if detected, Customs could issue a detention letter on the container. When the agent discovers that his plan has failed the next thing he does is to abandon the shipper.”
He added, “It is the responsibility of the importer to make sure that his import duty is paid at the right time, collect his final invoicing and bill of laden before handing it over to your clearing agent and also monitor what they are doing since he is more knowledgeable in terms of classification. As much as a clearing agent is important it is equally crucial to engage a credible one that will not do you in.
Similarly, while responding to a question on VISA applications for importation, Bello Said, You do not need to travel to China to import from China the Council has direct contact to the China Chamber of Commerce (CCC), so you do not need to get a VISA, there are laid down procedures of conducting international trade. There is always need for proper documentation, the importance of proper documentation is to ensure that if there is a claim NSC can have the right standing to defend the importer.
By Ifeoma Oguamanam