Shippers decry NASS plans to return SON back to Nigerian seaports

…Presence to thwart clearing process, Ease of Doing Business

Shippers under the aegis of Shippers Association of Lagos State have decried the alleged plans of some stakeholders including the National Assembly members in pressuring the trading public to accept the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) back to the port.

According to them, there was no guarantee that even if SON is admitted into the port, substandard materials will cease to enter the country.

“SON was among those that the Federal Government asked to operate outside the ports because their presence was not helping the Ease of Doing Business policy. The truth is that shippers have not found any relief in the proliferation of Government Agencies in cargo examinations within our port complexes,” said Jonathan Nicol, president of the association.

Nicol, who stated this on phone, also told our correspondent that the issue has dragged on for several years and even the Nigeria Customs Service, has explained that whenever they need SON to clarify sub-standard materials in the port, they would be invited.

While expressing surprise as to why SON is hell bent on returning to the port to complicate clearing processes with their sampling methodologies which results in holding the goods in detention, he said Nigeria does not have up to 3 percent of substandard goods entering the country through the seaport.

“The Senate Committee on Industries should be concerned, at this time, with stopping the influx of substandard items through trade laws between countries involved with the manufacturing of substandard items. This used to be the case, like in those days with India and China. Trade was restricted due to these countries involvement in production of substandard goods,” he advised.

He pointed out that Standards Organisation was active in checkmating such products, especially fake electrical cables, which is extremely dangerous and some electronic gadgets like cell phones that were destroyed recently.

Nicol also advised the Senate to be more concerned with enacting trade laws that would encourage the protection of cargo, create incentives for cargo owners, involve in the reduction of cost of doing business in Nigeria and encourage entrepreneurship since government cannot provide employment for every eligible Nigerian.

Assuring that Shippers Association would not encourage smugglers to destroy Nigeria trade platforms, Nicol said the level of invasion of government agencies in the port should be reduced drastically.

“The Senate can help to bring this about. It is the Nigeria Customs that conducts and detain goods inside the ports, not any other government agencies. We are desirous to feel the impact of the Nigerian Senate in seeking the passage of National Transport Commission (NTC) under whose jurisdiction this issue will be domiciled,” he said.

According to him, NTC will introduce New Port Order that will not encourage anybody other than the shipping and terminal operators to have access into our ports while other operators can conduct their businesses within their office domain.

“Port business should be driven by technology. In some countries, you hardly see the Customs in the ports. The Customs only have access to the goods at the exit gate. All transactions are driven by technology. Cargoes are scanned from Port of Origin with miniature films of all items in the container or cargo and sent electronically to Customs to simplify clearing processes,” he added.

Recall that the Senate Committee on Industries led by Bayo Osinowo, said recently during its oversight function visit to the Lagos laboratory complex of SON that it would ensure the return of the SON to the nation’s seaport.

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