‘Why we focus on exports to Asia’ - THE NATION
Comptroller Mohammed Abba-Kura of Area Command, Apapa Port, in this chat with MUYIWA LUCAS, explains why the command takes special interest in Asia-bound consignments. He states why importers and agents must comply with processes for trade facilitation.
How would you assess the degree of compliance by importers and their agents here?
There is improvement in compliance level because we seize none compliant consignments as stipulated by law. There are penalties for defaulters to pay.
What efforts are on ground to prevent leakages?
The issue is just simple, once you are able to sensitise the officers on their responsibilities and make them work according to the rules and regulations, definitely revenue leakages will stop.
Can you give an overview of export under your watch? What has it been like between January and now and what’s the tonnage?
I cannot give that one instantly, but we’ve put some measures in place. As you know, there is no examination bay for export consignment, so officers have to go out of the port to witness the stuffing of the containers before the containers get to the port and based on some intelligent reports, we are focusing on export to Asian countries and the reason for that is to forestall export of endangered species and some prohibited items on the export prohibition list.
On trade facilitation, what efforts are on ground to improve on the trade facilitation template you met?
So many people have asked me about trade facilitation. You have to define what trade facilitation is as far as Nigeria Customs is concerned, because if you are talking to a lay man about trade facilitation, he just thinks you are talking about how fast goods come in and go out of the port, but as far as Customs is concerned, it is beyond that. We are talking of facilitation of legitimate trade, compliant trade, trade that has satisfied all conditions concerning that transaction. So, for those kind of consignments that have complied, will be accelerated. But if there is need for you to meet some requirement which your importation does not have, we will not allow that to go and the owner of the consignment or the clearing agent will be complaining that people are not facilitating trade. If you have not complied, definitely we will not release. For example, if you import some raw materials, they must get certification form from the office of the National Security Adviser because of the nature of those consignments. So if you import such consignment we will never allow it to go until you have your End User Certificate because apart from revenue generation, suppression of smuggling and whatever, we are also concerned about the security of the nation.
To what extent are you engaging stakeholders to get them acquainted with all of these?
My office is open to everybody; every stakeholder is free to come to my office. Their leaders have been coming; we’ve been talking on daily basis; if they have issues they come and I explain to them and I hope they do same to their members.
How has your interaction been with other government agencies?
So far, the ones that I have interacted with since my assumption of office here, they are sister government agencies and I give them all the necessary assistance they need. If they have things to clear or have some things to do with certain things, if they come to me, I take immediate action and I attend to their problems promptly and likewise my subordinate, I ask them to do same.
Do you experience undue interference by some of these government agencies in Customs operations?
Naturally, any sister government agencies that is concerned about any consignment, we normally invite them before the examination is done. So, once they partake in that examination they cannot come back and start mentioning issues that they want to see it again, I will not allow that.
I am talking about when such consignment exit Customs control?
If it exit Customs control, but not yet out of the port, and they come with complains, I will definitely find out. We have examination report, if they participated in that examination, then I will not oblige them because that will hinder movement of goods. Once examination is done once, it is done and it should go. So if there are issues they will either come before hand to inform us that this is what they are expecting and we will assist them in monitoring it. When it is time for examination they will definitely be there and they partake in the examination. I think since I came I have not experience this kind of interference you are talking of.