The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has criticised the deployment of ‘Strike Force’ by the Nigeria Customs to all ports, saying that the move will be detrimental to investment and complicate the already difficult cargo clearing process.
In a statement signed by Muda Yusuf, director- general of the LCCI, the chamber said giving the Strike Force the powers to intercept and effect seizures of cargo would undermine the ease of doing business policy of the Buhari administration while negating the presidential executive order on streamlining of ports processes.
“It is a duplication of functions of the Customs resident officers at the ports which have statutory responsibilities to examine and release cargoes to importers,” the statement, sent to BusinessDay on Sunday, said.
“This move would slowdown the cargo clearing process as it amounts to creation of another layer of authority to intercept and seize cargoes that have been duly released by all agencies involved in the examination of the cargoes. These agencies include Resident Customs officers of the command, NDLEA. DSS, Ports Police, Nigeria Immigration Service, NPA, NIMASA and Port Health,” LCCI said.
The chamber explained that the directive conferred vast discretionary powers on the Strike Force, making the cargo clearing process vulnerable to arbitrariness and coercion which could undermine the integrity and credibility of the process.
It further said that the deployment of a special unit to the ports suggested a distrust and lack of confidence in the resident Customs officers who were deployed to the various commands by the CG in the first place.
“The appropriate thing to do in the circumstance is for the comptroller-general to replace these officers with trusted ones rather than superimpose another set of customs operatives on the system. This new deployment would make the entire process chaotic, cumbersome, costly and inefficient. It could also create an additional credibility problem,” the chamber warned.
The chamber pointed out that Lagos ports were the largest in the country handling over 1.5 million twenty-foot containers equivalent [TEUs] annually, underscoring the enormity of the consequences of physical examination of containers for the efficacy of cargo clearing.
“It is incredibly detrimental to the cargo release process and the economy. It is imperative for the federal government to expedite actions on the procurement of scanners for the ports in order to put an end to the physical examination of cargo and make the system technology driven,” the LCCI said.
Similarly, it expressed concern that many operators in the business community have inundated the chamber with complaints of protracted delays in issuance of Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR), adding that the situation had led to high demurrage payment by many importers.
“We therefore request the intervention of the Comptroller-General of Customs to ensure a more efficient ways of the processing and release of PAAR,” it said.