The House of Representatives Committee on Customs has given the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) two weeks to reduce its 18 cargo clearing stages to four, so as to decongest the nation’s ports.
The committee, which made the resolution on Tuesday, in Abuja, after an interactive session with stakeholders, insisted that the Comptroller General of Customs should appear in person to explain the processes.
The Chairman of the committee, Rep. Leke Abejide (SDC-Kogi) said that the process should be limited to the offices of the Comptroller Area Commander (CAC), Deputy Comptroller Revenue (DCR), Officer in Charge of Bond and then Gate.
He said that all other stages should be removed to allow for free flow of activities in the ports, describing them as avenues for illegal transactions by corrupt officers of the service.
“Once it gets to the CAC, the CAC should minute it directly to the Deputy Comptroller Revenue, from there, it goes to Officer in Charge of Bond and then to the Gate for exit.
“We have to do something about this, let us bring down these procedures to four stages; somebody is getting revenue illegally, but if we do this, we will cut away all these illegalities and the revenue goes to government,’’ he said.
The chairman said that the committee would not work on the Custom’s 2022 budget, if provisions were not made to fix all the scanners in the ports.
He said that government had invested over $420 million dollars on the scanners and the committee would not allow such investment to go down the drain.
The Deputy Comptroller, Tariff and Trade, Mrs Talatu Isah, said that there was need to investigate the matter before taking action, saying that the procedure should not be that cumbersome.
She said that the service was working hard to ensure ease of doing business in the country and security by ensuring only approved goods got into the country.
The officer said that any dealer subjected to a cumbersome procedure to clear merchandise should report to the Comptroller Area Commander.
Earlier, the acting Managing Director, Nigerian Port Authority, Mr Mohammed Bello-Koko, said that Customs had multiple units within the same port, making the process cumbersome.
“After Customs finishes 100 percent examination, just when you think it is over, you load your container, you now find another Custom checkpoint within the same port.
“In the name of Federal Strike force or something and they leave the truck there for 30 minutes to one hour causing a lot of problems.
“And when you go out again, you find another Customs person and that is why Nigeria has lost the transit cargo market; what we now have is captive cargo, even some of the captive cargo is going somewhere else because of the cumbersome way things are done,’’ he said.
Bello-Koko said that some cargoes that should have gone to Niger and other countries through Nigeria went through other countries owing to multiple Customs and police check points between the country and Niger.
The Managing Director, Inland Container Nigeria Ltd, Mr Ismail Yussuf, also said that there were too many tables through which documents were processed, before cargoes go out of the ports.
He said that it should not be more than three, if the service scanners were activated at the port and electronic clearing system deployed, adding that because Customs often changed procedures without prior notification of stakeholders, trying to adjust to such instant changes caused delays.
Yussuf said that the poor means of transportation out of the port was another challenge, stressing the need for road reconstruction and provision of other transport options.