Deficient scanners and controversial cargo policy
It is undoubtedly paramount to strictly monitor cargoes that are coming into this country at every point, but the hurdles to choosing the right and perfect mechanism of inspection has remained a clog in the wheel of the nation’s trade facilitation agenda.
The Federal Government has continued to express it’s commitment to trade facilitation, but long years of deficient scanners situated at various entry points (seaports, land borders and airports), physical inspection and some corrupt customs officers have made it difficult to achieve such move.The introduction of cargo Palletisation policy could cause more uncertainty to trade facilitation, considering the fact that it could not replace scanners for efficient inspection of cargoes.
Reports showed that almost all the scanners in Nigerian ports transferred to Nigeria Customs Service in 2014/2015 have collapsed with the several negative effects such as; serious security threat as a result of physical/ manual inspection on containers, cargo delays and excessive payment of rent and demurrage by importer/ licensed Customs Agents.
Stakeholders in the industry have continued to express displeasure about the new policy, and stressed the need for government to fix the cargo scanners. President, National Council of Managing Directors of Customs Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), and Managing Director, Eyis Resources, Lucky Amiwero, in a letter the President, said the exclusion scanners from the cargo inspection process would lead to increased costs and procedural defects that will negatively affect the totality of import in to the economy.
According to him, the collapse and break down of scanners that is to handle inspection of goods, resulted to the introduction of pallet policy, but the new poly is a wrong alternative to scanners because it would increase number of empty containers and increase freight payment.He argued that the palletisation policy would increase health hazards due to invasive insects that usually accompany the pallets, even as it may lead to contravention of the (IPPC) (ISPMP) No.15 international convention on palletised, wooden, dunnage that carries invasive insects.He therefore urged that the Federal Government should repair the break down scanners to remove the mandatory provision of palletized goods in containers on Nigeria shipment.
“Scanning procedure that was removed partially due to broken down of scanner from the import guideline should be included so as not to relegate Nigeria that controls 75 per cent of sub regional Trade as defaulting the WCO Conventions on scanning Inspection, which is mandatory as contracting party to the convention. Government should halt the palletisation policy and repair the scanners to handle the defect of the policy,” he said.
An industry expert, Bolaji Akinola, said government would be making mistake to think that pallets can serve as alternatives to scanner, adding that scanners are the perfect way of inspecting cargoes.
According to him, some cargoes must come with pallets and that is very obvious and does not need any government to enforce it, but a situation whereby all cargoes are mandated to be palletized is wrong and would do the economy a lot of harm.
Noting that paletisation would increase the capital flight and increase the cost of shipping into the country, Akinola appealed to the government to urgently halt the policy in the spirit of trade facilitation.
In a communiqué issued by the coordinator of the Town Hall meeting held by Ships and Ports in Lagos, Shulammite ‘Foyeku, showed concerns that several policies were formulated in the past, and because such policies did not have the inputs of relevant industry stakeholders, they failed and did not achieve the purpose(s) for which they were formulated;
The failed policies were listed to include the Pre-Shipment Inspection Policy (PSI), the Destination Inspection Policy (DI), the policy on Professional Import Duty Administrator (PIDA), Cargo Scanning Services through Service Providers, National Automotive Policy, Cargo Tracking Note, Advanced Cargo Information System (ACIS), among several others.
Stakeholders also noted that the maritime industry stakeholders are concern that the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), which advised the Federal Government to make cargo palletisation compulsory for all cargoes imported into the country, may not have been privy to all information on the consequences of the policies. The stakeholders are of the view that in the face of all the challenges plaguing the maritime industry, a focus on the compulsory implementation of cargo palletization is a misplaced priority.
They posited that the cargo palletization policy was created to increase, rather than reduce, physical examination of cargo; adding that only a drastic reduction in the rate of physical examination will lead to the ease of doing business and reduce the cost of doing business at the ports.
The stakeholders observed that the cargo palletisation policy would enhance the manual approach to cargo examination at the detriment of technology-driven processes, urging government to pay attention to more germane issues especially the provision of scanning machines, automation of Customs processes and repair of the port access road, to drive the ease of doing business in Nigeria.
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