• Sunday, July 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

Stakeholders worry as NIMASA, SON, NPA dump major jobs for revenue collection

Nimasa

Following the recent emphasis on revenue collection by government agencies responsible for technically regulating the activities of service providers and users towards positioning the nation’s seaport for growth, stakeholders have raised fresh concern that this trend will likely stunt development in the sector.

They listed the agencies responsible for regulating business activities in the port industry to include the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON).       

“NIMASA now operates not as a technical regulator set up to ensure safety of shipping, but as a money making organisation, which was not intended to be. The emphasises is no longer on how many new ships Nigerians have been able to buy, and how many operators have been empowered from the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) and the Ship Acquisition and Ship Building Fund (SASBF),” said Emmanuel Ihenacho, chairman of Integrated Oil and Gas Services Limited in an interview with BusinessDay.

Ihenacho, who stated that NIMASA, which is the agency that has the responsibility to mid-wife growth in the shipping industry especially as regards achieving the intentions of Cabotage, ensuring cleaner ocean, ensuring safe and secure shipping, and enhancing maritime capacity in line with the global best practices for economical development, now concentrates on collecting SASBF levy; CVFF levy; Sea Protection and Pollution levies; Environmental levy and dockworkers levy among others.

According to the master mariner, levies collected within Nigerian coast is not a revenue rather it technically passes on a cost to shipping companies, which in turns  gets to the final consumers through raising of market prices of goods.

Findings revealed that NPA, which is saddled with the responsibility of providing safe and navigable channels; maintaining port facilities and equipment as well as ensuring safety and security at the ports, now put emphasis on creating several levies and fees for both ships calling Nigerian ports and the terminal operators.

“NPA is not a revenue collecting agency, but the authority now puts much resource into developing applications and other technologically driven solutions that are geared towards increasing the revenue collection of the agency,” said Emmanuel Nwabunwanne, a Lagos-based importer.

Nwabunwanne, who pointed out that SON, is saddle with the responsibility of quality standards for both manufactured and imported products and services, said that the agency has not being able to deliver on its responsibility rather it has succeeded in impeding international trade.

“For instance, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has done a good job by introducing SONCAP, and all they need to do is to work with the relevant agencies to stop importers without genuine certificate from opening ‘Form M’ and this will send a note of warning to importers of fake goods to desist from it.

Continuing, he said that the bottleneck created by the activities of SON is contributing to high cost of doing business at the port, which he described as unquantifiable. “If you compare the cost of doing business in Nigeria to that of Ghana, the margin will be so much. This is why some Nigerian importers prefer to send their goods to Cotonu and Ghana, clear and bring them to Nigeria despite the risk involved.  But this cost can be reduced, if agencies like SON position themselves properly.

Lucky Amiwero, chief executive officer of Eyis Resources Limited, who bemoaned the activities of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) within the port environment, told our correspondent that the activities of SON has become an impediment to international trade in place of trade facilitation.

“SON is paying less attention to regulating quality standards rather it has turn to a revenue generating agency by placing high fee and penalty on SONCAP certification. The agency locates its officers few meters from the port to intercept cleared containers and also collect huge sum of money from importers to get their containers released. This is not the function of SON and it contradicts (article 8) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) provisions,” Amiwero accused.

Amiwero, who is also a maritime analyst, affirmed that SON is not a revenue collecting agency and is one of the agencies that are not supposed to be in the port unless on invitation by officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).

According to him, there is expectation that the federal government cautions SON to be responsible to their duties and not to impede trade in the port. “They supposed to structure themselves properly and build comprehensive laboratories in different parts of the country for quality testing rather than collecting money from importers to issue SONCAP.

Uzoamaka Anagor-Ewuzie