SON: How Relevant Is It? 

SON: How Relevant Is It?
Odumodu,, Alhaji Alhassan Dantata. Remi Ogungbemi

As the maritime industry is full of different sub-sectors, so are there different voices either condemning or commending the activities of some government agencies, individual organisations, government policies as they affect them.

Recently, when the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) was introduced into the clearing sector to facilitate easy clearing of goods and to reduce the problems associated with the delay in clearing of goods in the port and cargo dwell time, there were dissenting voices; some in favour and others criticising the workability of the system especially because of the teething problems it had.

Another issue that raised dust was when there was terrible traffic jam at Apapa that almost grounded all the activities in the port. There was cacophony of voices that trailed it before a little respite was given.

The latest is the stopping of goods on the road by the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) which was heavily criticised across the sections of the freight forwarding industry and even among some of the importers who frowned at the development.

However, the said SON has also engaged the service providers to help carry out pre-shipment verification on imported used vehicles coming into the country which the likes of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has vehemently kicked against and some other importers too.

The association led by its president Chief Eugene Nweke had said it would amount to extortion if additional money would be required to be paid by importers because of the new scheme.

He said that NAGAFF, in collaboration with the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) as well as other bodies will soon issue a joint public statement on the development.

“It is in good direction, but where we may not agree is the arbitrary levies to be paid, you don’t just wake up one morning and impose levies, we want to find out from SON what index they used to arrive at a vehicle paying N20, 000, Nigerian shippers are not idiots, if they (SON) are living in that euphoria, then they need to wake up.”

Meanwhile last week, leaders of some associations in the freight forwarding sub-sector including the truck owners under the aegis of Maritime Advocacy and Action Group (MAAG) have thrown their weight behind the activities of SON as well as calling on the Federal Government to rise against all the anomalies bedevilling the maritime industry.

The associations represented at the press briefing include the Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Importers and Exporters Coalition (SNFFIEC) represented by the National Coordinator, Sir Osita Chukwu; the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) represented by the scribe, Comrade Ben Ndee;

Others are: Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN) represented by the national president, Dr. Frank Ukor and the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) represented by the National Chairman, Chief Remi Ogungbemi.

Speaking, Chief Osita Chukwu who moderated the event said that it was necessary to defend the course of the nation but in doing so, the agencies put up by the government especially in the maritime industry should be critically examined to see why they are not performing optimally.  According to him, some of them are underperforming because they lack requisite facilities, fund and man power to carry out their functions.

He said most of the regulatory agencies in the port including SON, NAFDAC, NIMASA, NPA and Shippers’ Council have been hampered in carrying out their duties because of challenges they face which he stated above.

He said in order to overcome delay in cargo clearance, the stakeholders too should criticise themselves for non-compliance. He therefore described non-compliance as a menace that can kill the economy of a nation.

In showing their solidarity with SON, he said the group would kick against any product imported into the country that is sub-standard or that do not follow the rules guiding importation in the country.

For SON to have only 1, 500 staff across the country is not good enough considering the number of ports in the country including air ports and land borders.

The Scribe of NCMDLCA, Comrade Ndee said the group was ready to support all the regulatory agencies in the port that proper thing must be done, flush out corruption and make sure the agencies work properly.

The National president of AREFFN, Dr. Frank Ukor called for amendment of some areas in the Act establishing the Son saying the organisation has not enough staff to prosecute the enormity of task before them.

While speaking, the AMATO helms man said the group is out to see that the products coming into the country are good ones that meet up with the standard anywhere in the world.

The group said those complaining about the SON are those who are not ready to comply with trade facilitation and those who have something to hide. They believe that SON does not hinder cargo clearance neither does it constitute nuisance as claimed by some people but is only carrying out iys constituted duty.

However, the group had said they were in support of the pre-shipment inspection which some importers and freight forwarding association had earlier negated.

In the area container hijacking on the highway, the group said that SON was empowered to do carry out the inspection on any container arriving the port to avoid bringing fake and sub-standard goods into the country. They believe that section 7 (A) and (B) enable the orgnisation to carry out check on any container.

Speaking further, the group said they were out to discuss the holistic anomalies and the rots in the port with emphasis on truck and clearing businesses.

Answering questions on the pre-shipment exercise of SON, the group said they were comfortable with it as well as support it but if it infringes on peoples’ right, they would challenge it.

It could be recalled that SON was asked out of the port when there were complaints that they hinder easy and fast clearance of cargoes in the port but they have chosen to carry out their statutory duties by stopping containers along the road.

Of a truth, SON is indeed germane in cargo clearance in the port only if they are ready to carry out their duties with genuine intention based on the purpose for which they are created.

If SON has been in the port for so long a time and the country is still experiencing this quantum of fake and adulterated goods in the country, then those calling for their scrapping may be right.

On the other hand, knowing the country called Nigeria, where anything is possible, where the right is always seen in a negative light; the organisation may not have to carry the total blame of what we see in the country but government policies that contradict themselves.

MAAG is made up of 12 associations among which are the four represented at the press briefing but claims they were giving out the information on behalf of the Coordinator of the group, Alhaji Alhassan Dantata.

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