Customs agents in the country have expressed concern that Nigeria’s import and export system as well as the economy are vulnerable to terrorist exploitation owing to its cargo inspection regime known as destination inspection (DI).
The National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), the umbrella body of customs agents, stated this in a petition to the Chairman House Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff.
NCMDLCA in the petition signed by its National President, Mr. Lucky Amiwero, said DI contravenes the WCOSafe Frame Work of Standard to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade (WCO Safe Framework).
The DI regime process, they added, allows the influx of unwholesome goods into the country, such as arms, ammunitions, contraband and the reduction of revenue, pointing out that this exposes the nation to serious security threats.
According to the customs agents, “Before the event of September 2011, Customs authority were responsible for the clearance of imported goods at the port of destination. The event of 9/11 precipitated a change in cargo inspection from destination to now at manufacturing site of port of loading, due to monitoring of supply chain mechanism of unwholesome products and revenue manipulation at destination.
“Nigeria is a signatory to the convention of the WCO Safe Framework of Standard to secure and facilitate global trade, which provides multilayered set of standards for container/cargo security, developed to enhance security, increase revenue and facilitate international trade,” they said.
They stated the urgent need for Nigeria as a contracting party to the global Multi-layered Security protocol the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards, to comply with the protocol by reducing the illicit-cross boarder movement of unwholesome goods into the country
“There is the urgent need to initiate the process of memorandum of understanding (MOU) with various countries, where cargo throughput of import is high e.g China, Turkey, India, etc, for the agreement of Mutual Administrative Assistant for collaborative activities on the prevention, investigation, repression and transnational crime as contained in various conventions.
“There is the urgent need to repair the collapsed scanners in the ports that is the core on Security tool to reduce the influx of illicit Goods in the Country. There is the urgent need to Safeguard and Secure our nation from the influx of arms, ammunition, narcotics, dirty bomb, unwholesome items and weapon of mass destruction (WMD) through the implementation of the provision of international Cargo Security Agreement,” the agents said.
They also stressed the need to accommodate various pre-shipment inspection processes under Customs control as conducted by other government agencies such as Customs, NAFDAC, SON etc , that are involved in quality , quantity and value assessment of imported goods as practiced globally to safeguard the national security and reduce the process and cost of multiple charges.
“Urgently constitute a committee of trade procedure experts to address the short fall in the import process, which constitutes bottle necks and impede the component of trading across border on ease of doing business,” they said.
While stating the need to fix scanners, the agents said the scanners contracted under build operate own and transfer (BOOT) transferred to Nigeria Customs Service in 2014/15 have all collapsed.
“The negative effect of this is serious security threat as a result of physical/ manual inspection on Containers, which limits the function of the Customs officers to perform the selectivity on mid-level risk consignment allocated to the scanners for detection of security products and unwholesome goods. Laborious Inspection without scanners that is the essential tool approved under the (DI) scheme in 2006 to facilitate and secured trade, which encourages delays and the payment of rent and demurrage by importer/ licensed Customs agents.
“Costly inspection to importer/ licensed Customs agents on physical inspection without scanners, which is a risk to the Custom officers and the agents, who are strangers to the transaction, due to non- availability of scanner at the port of destination and non-inspection before shipment in line with the outbound and inbound inspection as contained in the Protocol of WCO SAFE framework, “they said.