May 28, 2024

MAJAN Roundtable : Aniebonam Says Shippers’Council Must Invoke It’s Powers Of Regulation

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MAJAN Roundtable :
Aniebonam Says Shippers’Council Must Invoke It’s Powers Of Regulation

…calls terminal charges increment a farce , Shippers’Council should intervene. -appeals for calm
bears his mind on lifting of forex ban on 43 items, others

…Calls on CGC Adeniyi to empower Zonal Commands, trusts Area Controllers

 

By Jerry Aguigbo

The Founder, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, Dr. Boniface Okechukwu Aniebonam, has described the purported increment in terminal charges a farce, calls on the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, (NSC) to invoke its powers which will bring sanity the industry. He also says the Council should in the prevailing circumstance, immediately convene a meeting with stakeholders and terminal operators to deliberate on the this festering imbroglio between Freight Forwarders and Terminal operators over the astronomical increase in terminal charges, to ensure trade facilitation is not disturbed and the looming conflict avoided at the ports.

Dr Aniebonam gave this advice when speaking with Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria (MAJAN), during a Roundtable talk-show, held
on Friday, October 20, 2023, in Apapa.

Dr Aniebonam while
responding to questions on the outrage by freight forwarders over excessive increase in terminal charges to over 600%, appealed to freight forwarders and maritime traders
for calm, calling on NSC as the regulatory authority to invoke its powers and urgently intervene, in order to avoid chaos in the port system, especially with the challenges facing the nation’s economy at the moment.

Continuing, Dr Aniebonam harped on the need for terminal operators to always seek for approval on any proposed increase on charges from appropriate regulatory authority in the transportation ministry,. He advised them to avoid unilateral decisions over charges, instead, the terminal operators should do 8 broad based consultation with stakeholders before making official pronouncements.

This, he said is important to prevent conflict in the industry. To him,
consultation and dialogue are useful at all times, for all stakeholders to be on the same page.

Furthermore, Aniebonam called on the Comptroller General of Customs, CGC Adewale Adeniyi MFR, to empower Zonal Commands nationwide and make them functional to address trade disputes, to ensure seamless operations.

In his words :
“Going forward, the zonal commands of the Customs must be operational, if we want to discuss issues of trade facilitation, making operations to be seamless, having access to resolving trade matters, I expect the new CGC to devolve powers to the zones. Delegating powers to the Zones to handle trade matters and resolve disputes will fast track trade facilitation in the nation.

“I will advise the CGC to focus more on formulation of policies, training and retraining of officers to understand the language of Customs, international relations, welfare of officers and men of the Service. CGC Adeniyi should move away from operations and allow the Commands to take charge, because it’s more convenient for freight forwarders to take trade issues to Zonal commands to resolve, than traveling to Abuja always, even considering the security treat in the country.”

The Founder reiterated that,
“The zones are manned by competent ACGs who are already in the bracket of being appointed to the top echelon of Customs hirachy. I believe the new CGC is working on it.

“Note that in devolving powers to the Zones, the CGC has the residual power to reverse any decision taken that is not right; or in tandem with the right procedures. That is the advantage in devolution of powers.”

He added that
“The CGC must in turn, trust the ACGs at the Zonal Commands.
There must be trust in the system. Anything you are doing without trust, there is a problem. The headquarters of Customs must also
trust Area Controllers at various Commands to do the needful, while keeping an eye on them”.

Aniebonam enthused :
“CGC Adeniyi is an international Customs officer, as such, Nigeria couldn’t have gotten someone better than a career officer like Adewale Adeniyi.

“Coming into office, from day one, he took off, running the basis things he knew were going wrong but didn’t have the opportunities to correct. Take for example, the Customs strike force. The strike force was an ad-hoc arrangement, an intervention force to correct a particular ailment. It shouldn’t have lasted more than 3 months; or at most 6 months and returned back to the base. A great decision taken by the new CGC was disbandment of StrikeForce and the port operators are grateful for that”.

Adding that “The Customs Boss must ensure that appropriate customs duty assessment on imported goods coming into the country follow standard operating procedure. Imports at present are being over-valued for customs purposes”.

He opined that
emphasis by Customs on meeting alloted revenue targets is detrimental to trade facilitation, as well as compliance to import and export regulations, as Customs focuses more on revenue collection than trade facilitation capable of stimulating economic growth and job creation.

His words : “Don’t
benchmark cargo. Revenue is a function of trade policy, cost, insurance and freight when calculating the duty. What does it take to conduct customs examination looking at section 27, the Bill of sight?

Laying into the immediate past Governor of the Central Bank, Mr Godwin Emefiele, Aniebonam says,
“The former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele destroyed the nation’s economy with the ban on forex for importation of rice and other 42 items. Delisting those items was technically banning importation of such goods.

“This is because every import coming into Nigeria must have Form-M for statistical purposes.
What this means is that, if you do not have form ‘M’ registered for a product, the Customs will not be in a position to issue you Pre-Arrival Assessment Report, PAAR.

“You see the confusion Mr Godwin Emefiele created in the system ! Emefiele, who is not conversant with Customs laws
issued that Executive Order in ignorance, without due consultation with Nigeria Customs Service for professional advice. He acted in lack of knowledge and undue arrogance, he destroyed the economy.

“Hope is alive. Thanks to President Bola Tinubu for his wisdom in reversing that Order. With the
lifting of ban on these 43 items, compliance level will increase in making declaration for customs purposes.

“Section 27 treats matters of incomplete documentation. The Customs law tells you what to do, that brings in issue of penalty. The Customs helps in that regard because the subject matter is trade. You see, Customs are the most patriotic citizens, but
the implication is that, you are at mercy of Customs to do your business. You cargo can be seized under false declaration, or concealment.”

On the creation of Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, the Founder described it as a welcome development, stating that the initiative will pave for way for Nigeria to harness enormous resources abound in that sector for the betterment of the entire economy.

Dr Aniebonam stressed that Nigeria has a lot to benefit from the new ministry, if measures are put in place to ensure appropriate implementation of policies mapped out to grow the sector.

However, he advised the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy to look at aspects of ship repairs, ship building, opening up inland waterways, tapping into the Cabotage law for Nigeria to have national carrier and other areas of specialisation should be prioritised.

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