• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Four months after introduction of PAAR, cargo clearance delays continues at ports

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Four months after the introduction of the pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) aimed at fast tracking cargo clearance, the nation’s seaports are still being encumbered by delays ocassioned by personal interest and bureaucracy, BusinessDay investigations have shown.

The implication is that port users are bedeviled with the ever growing cost of doing business in Nigeria, a development that is giving the country a poor image among local and foreign investors.

Further investigations by Business Day showed that the current delay is occasioned by the failure of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to fast track cargo clearance through timely issuance of the PAAR.

Some analysts attribute the development to the insatiable appetite of customs officers whose unofficial incomes have been reduced through the introduction of the per-Assessment report.

“It is sheer sabotage on the part of some corrupt customs officials who feel shortchanged through the new report”, an industry operator, who pleaded for anonymity told Business Day at the weekend.

According to them, introduction of as PAAR document for cargo clearance has blocked all revenue leakages, which do not allow officers room to short-change government. They noted that corrupt Customs officers with vested interest  have become a clog in the wheel of cargo clearance at the ports.

“The major hinderance to the success of the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) is the game of bias in the issuance of PAAR. A syndicate is working in connection with yet to be identified Customs officers, and they collect bribes from importers to issue them PAAR to clear goods”, said Frank Ukor, President of Association of Registered Freight Forwarders Nigeria (AREFFN).

Ukor, who is close to cargo clearance at the port, further claimed that the situation has become so alarming such that most consignees that applied for PAAR two months ago, have not gotten the document to clear their goods, but those that give gratification to officers, have their PAAR generated within two days.

Buttressing the point further, he observed, “This syndicate works with people in Customs headquarters in Abuja, where PAAR is generated. The top management of Customs is working very hard but those in charge at the various ports are frustrating every move to make PAAR work”.

PAAR  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, said Lucky Amiwero, president, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) in his petition to President Goodluck Jonathan.

According to him, 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.

This delay, Amiwero noted, has huge economic impact on the cost of cargo clearance and it would eventually lead to possible closure of some factories due to inability of manufacturers to access imported raw materials trapped in the ports.

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.

Tony Anakebe, managing director of Gold-Link Investments Limited, a clearing and forwarding company in an interview with BusinessDay confirmed that there is congestion in Lagos ports owing to the fact that importers of goods at the port have no PAAR to clear them. “The whole process is prone to delay because before the importer would collect all the required documents, the goods would be in Nigeria, and the importer spends another one month to obtain PAAR to clear the goods.

“ These importers would definitely recoup their losses by increasing the market price of goods and the end users will be forced to pay”, he added.

“The port environment is currently deserted due low ebb of business activities as Nigerian importers are now diverting their cargoes to neighbouring West African ports, especially Cotonu port, to reduce delays and cost, and this is detrimental to the economy”, he said.

AMAKA ANAGOR