How We Can Beat Congestion

How We Can Beat Congestion
Amadi Ndidi

Amadi Ndid is a Superintendent of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT) command of the Service. In this education page this week, he tutors you on what the service will do in case of congestion in the port. Enjoy the piece as you are educated.

In this yuletide period, more cargos will be coming into the country. In case of congestion, what can customs do to make the work faster?

Jobs are often done as they come. Congestion is a function of cargoes being trapped in the port but to avoid this, cargoes are being transferred to bonded terminals like KLT, which is another way of decongesting the port. Another way of decongesting the port is that the Customs Area Controller may deploy more officers in addition to the ones on ground to carry out a particular function or perform a particular duty in order to make sure that the port is not congested. In addition, some ports may need to work round the clock to make sure that cargoes are cleared easily and speedily as a means of decongesting the port. So, basically Customs is competent to contain that, no matter how the situation is, even when things were not as easy as they are now. I mean when there was no internet technology; the customs was handling it well. Now, I don’t think that there will be any such situation that the customs will not be able to handle.

What should agents do to avoid customs wrath at a time like this?

They should just do the right thing by declaring properly. If the right things are done, everything will fall in place. That is to say that the agents should declare what they are carrying; submit the necessary documents and they will go their ways. If you do anything wrong, you will be held liable and the officer will want to exhaust all possible means to make sure that the agents do the right thing to save his own job, to save the revenue generation of Federal Government as well as making sure that the agent is not doing the wrong thing. The customs officer is there to assist the Federal Government to collect revenue and he must do his job basically.

As a means of facilitating quick cargo clearance, is it possible to waive physical examination?

No. We are into Destination Inspection, which means that when the cargo comes to the final destination, it is inspected; you have to examine the containers. But there are companies that are under fast track and even if they are under fast track, examination is done in their premises. Those are the companies that the system have seen as being compliant all the way; the companies that have lived above board; companies that have been known not to have shady deal in their declarations; companies whose goods are as good as what they declare. The service allows them to do their examination in their premises. So, examination cannot be done without whether in their premises or in the port and the examination must be hundred percent.

The essence of the examination is to confirm what importer has declared in the PAAR. Basically, somebody is employed to check that whether what you actually declared is what is actually in the container. So, if what you declared is what is in the container, and you have paid the appropriate duty which is the government revenue we are talking about, you are free to take your goods without delay. Remember that government revenue and national security are very important issues that must be taken seriously in the port, so, what you are carrying must not contravene national security. You must pay the appropriate duty if your good is dutiable and if not, if it is contraband, it is liable to forfeiture.

In this yuletide period, what should importers do to facilitate trade at bonded terminals?

The first and major thing is proper documentation. When an importer brings consignment into the country, and he has his proper documents, there should not be any delay. In fact, delay is not always from the customs, it is when the relevant documents are not there, the customs will have to query you. If what is declared in PAAR is in tandem with what is discovered after examination, there is no problem; in fact, clearing can be done within 24 hours. But the problem we do have is that most of them do the wrong things; they don’t do the proper declaration and that will always lead to some infraction. Basically, an officer who upon examination sees an infraction will query you and when he queries a document, it takes one or two things for them to agree that is, raising the Debit Note (DN) and going to pay the amount raised in the DN, before release is effected.

There are instances where the agents may want to argue which may also cause delay because before the customs and the agent involved agree on exactly what the decision may be as they may differ in their tariff classification. Tariff classification is straight forward but someone who may not want to be fair or wants to declare anything or place it where it is not supposed to be, or someone who may want to give under declaration or false declaration may lead to delay. If the right things are done, there should not be any delay.

On the other hand, the office of the Area Controller is there, if there is any unnecessary delay, you walk in to the office of the Area Controller. Every agent has the right to see the Area Controller to enhance trade facilitation because trade facilitation is one of the building blocks of World Customs Organisation (WCO) and it is also one of the centre points of this administration of the Nigeria Customs Service to sustain trade and make the stakeholders and other port users homely and to make the port user-friendly. It is also to make importer access his goods at the right time and as the Comptroller-General has said, the most important thing to trade facilitation is compliance and following necessary procedures to clearing of goods. Delay is always caused by agents.

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