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Cargo clearance cost to rise as SON returns to port


By Steve Agbota                                    [email protected] 08033302331

Attempts to return the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), to the nation’s port may see more Nigerian bound cargo diverted to neighbouring ports over rising clearance cost and delays.

SON was among the agencies of the Federal Government sacked from the ports in 2011, to further improve the nation’s Ease Of Doing Business (EODB) ranking Index, then at very abysmal level then.

But among the agencies booted out of the seaports, SON apperas to be the only one lobbying stakeholders, lawmakers and even the executive to return to the port, insisting it would save the  country from the menace of importation of substandard products.

The Director-General of the agency, Mallam Farouq Salim, in a recent stakeholders sensitisation forum recently, lamented that Customs is only doing random check of 10 out of 100 containers coming to the seaports and border stations, resulting in the high influx of substandard products into the country.

But maritime stakeholders have argued that SON coming back to the port will breed corruption, raise cost of cargo clearance, and lead to duplication of tariffs and lenghten  clearance but cumbersome procedures to make Nigerian ports the most expensive and primitive in the world.

They argued that Nigerian cannot afford to lose more cargoes to its neighbors just because of multiple agencies causing delay in cargo clearance and hindering trade facilitation.

In the last 10 years, about 70 per cent of Nigerian bound cargoes have been diverted to other West African ports, including Togo, Ghana, Cotonou, Cameroun, due to high cost of doing business and delay in cargo clearance, forcing the economy to lose billions of dollars annually.

One major reasons importers are leaving the nation’s ports to neighbouring countries is the presence of multiple government agencies at the ports constituting pains to importers and clearing agents neck. It is against this backdrop that stakeholders have petitioned have Federal Government to reduce the number of its agencies operating at the port.

Vice President and Chairman of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, had in 2018 signed an Executive Order that only seven Federal Government agencies are allowed to operate and have physical representation at all port locations in the country.

The Order listed  the seven government agencies to include the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Department of State Security (DSS), Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and the Port Health were approved to be at the ports while SON, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) while the rest were kicked out of the port.

The order made it clear that any agency not allowed to be in the port should vacate the ports’ premises and carry out its regulatory functions from outside the port locations.

The decision was part of government’s efforts to improve efficiency in port operations and promote ease of doing business around the port corridors.

Speaking with Daily Sun, the President of Shippers Association Lagos, Jonathan Nicol said SON was in the Port before it was removed,asking to know what it forgot that prompted its desire to go back to the Port.

He said they were very active in the Port before and they were unable to stem down what is called substandard goods leading to the protest by stakeholders  to have it thrown out of the Ports and that the Port should be left to  Customs alone to do their job.

“All the agencies cannot be in the Ports. Let Customs do their job and if Customs needs them, they will invite them. It is a normal things all over the world but Nigeria is an expection, everybody wants to come into the Ports,” he said.

He urged government to further reduce all the agencies in the Port because it is high security area, not a trading area for government agency.

“We have a government agency like Customs which is a paramilitary outfit, that carries guns. So what is SON doing there? All other agency should leave the Port. If Customs needs any of their services, for instance, if someone imports  hard drugs, they will invite NDLEA.

“Is it because NAFDAC came into the Ports? NAFDAC and SON are doing almost the same job. They should merge all of them together. They should streamline them.

“These is one of the reasons importers are skeptical of bringing in goods into this country.

Conversely, the National President, National Council of Managing Director of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, said the return of SON is illegal and government cannot allow them to return to the Ports because the agency is not part of the Decree 1999.

According to him, there is a decree and a law that allow government agencies to be in the Ports, saying that it is not as if Federal Government cannot allow them to come into the Ports. He said if SON wants to come into the nation’s Ports, they must go back to the National Assembly to make sure that they have to go into the Ports.

“It is not Federal Government and nobody can send them into the Ports without due process because there is a law that exclude them from the Ports and they have no business be in the Ports.

“There is a law that removed them from the Ports. If they wants to go back to the Ports, they should go back to the National Assembly. The National Assembly will now look at that law and see if SON is authorised to be there,” he said.

He explained that when it comes to inspection and clearance of goods, nobody can tell them to come into the Ports to do it. He said the return of SON make Nigerian Port to be one of the worst Ports in the world.

“Is that what you see in other Ports of the world? If anybody has given them assurance, it is not done by law. If they want to go back to the Ports, they should go back to the NASS because there is a law that exclude them from the agency that supposed to be in the Ports.

Also speaking,  the Chairman of Association of Registered Freight Forwarders Nigeria (ARFFN) PTML chapter, Emmanuel Ohambele, said SON is not supposed to be in the Port, as there are too many agencies at the Port already that do not allow 48 hours clearance of cargoes. He said the return of SON back to the Ports will breed corruption and interference with the consignments that do not concern them.

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