• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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BusinessDay

Let Customs allow the PAAR to work

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Four months after the introduction of the pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) aimed at fast tracking cargo clearance at the nation’s seaports, investigations reveal that stakeholders are worried that all is not well with the implementation of the new assessment regime.

We recall that the old regime of Risk Assessment Report (RAR) was abandoned at the end of November last year and the destination inspection agents relieved of their contract on the strength that the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) had the capacity to take up the PAAR. The unfolding scenario at the Lagos ports show that it is either the capacity is lacking on the part of the NCS to effect the PAAR regime or certain members of the NCS at the ports are frustrating the proper implementation of the PAAR due to personal pecuniary interests, as some stakeholders have complained.

The implication of the lack lustre implementation of the PAAR is the long stay of cargoes at the ports and the rising cost for port users and businesses. This exorbitant cost of doing business in Nigeria has been widely reported by international bodies and rather than ameliorate the conditions, agencies of government are escalating conditions that give rise to higher business costs. This is clearly a disincentive to investments and an anti-business framework that puts Nigeria and the government in bad light.

We are more disturbed that after all the poor implementation of the PAAR may not actually be as a result of capacity issues but mere sabotage by elements in the NCS whose unofficial incomes have been reduced through the introduction of the pre-Assessment report.For this cabal, the introduction of PAAR preocedure cargo clearance has blocked all revenue leakages, which do not allow them room to short-change government. Stakeholders complain bitterly that corrupt Customs officers with vested personal pecuniary interests have become a clog in the wheel of cargo clearance at the ports.

The new PAAR which took effect since December 1 2013 is supposed to be issued before the arrival of the goods, but importers spend months after the arrival of their goods at the ports before obtaining the document to clear cargo. This has drastically slowed down cargo clearance at the ports. The result is that importers, whose cargoes are trapped in the port, pay millions of Naira worth of demurrage to shipping companies and rent to terminal operators, to clear one container load of cargo. BusinessDay checks reveal that the manufacturing sector is mostly affected, as most of the imported raw materials of several firms are currently trapped in the ports, while some companies are tied down with high interest on loans.

We believe that the Nigerian project cannot be promoted properly by an arrangement whereby those who should actually protect the economic interests of the Country are actually working against such interests.

Beyond the euphoria of being Africa’s largest economy with a GDP of $510 billion, we caution that efficiency and the uprooting of avoidable encumbrances will make Nigeria a better investment destination.

Thus, we call on the authorities of the NCS, the Minister of Finance and Co-coordinating Minister of the Economy to intervene appropriately and put an end to this show of shame at the ports that is hurting our economy.