The Customs Area Controller in charge of Apapa Command; Comptroller Musa Jibrin explained last week that, although licensed customs agents have consistently called for indigenization of the clearance of cargoes at all entry points in Nigeria; this might not be achieved anytime soon.
While addressing executives of the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) who paid him a visit last week, Comptroller Musa noted that the most of the companies operating in the country are owned by foreigners and that customs has provided them with licenses for ‘self-clearance’.
He added that the essence of Ease of Doing Business policy of the Federal Government is to also make the environment friendly and convenient for investors as Nigeria is competing for foreign direct investment with other countries.
Even though he cleared the air that the customs does not grant clearing license to foreigners, it however has provisions in its laws for self-clearance for established companies.
According to him, “there have been talks about foreigners around the customs house, in our import and export activities, we are dealing with both Nigerians and non-Nigerians, some of the companies that operate in Nigeria are owned by foreigners, we have assembly plants for Keke Napep and car assembly companies owned largely by foreigners”
“The customs service does not license foreigners as a clearing agent, but they license companies and they grant self-clearance to such companies, any company can be given self-clearance, it is now the prerogative of such company to decide whom they send to process customs documentation”
“If a company is owned by a foreigner and the clearing outfit of that company has foreigners, definitely you cannot rule out seeing a foreigner following up an entry, it is not our prerogative to tell them not to come forward”.
The customs boss also added that the law also has a provision for an importer to hire a custom agent to help him clear a consignment; therefore the owner of the consignment may be working from behind while he contracted the responsibility to the clearing agent.
Speaking on the ongoing construction of wharf road leading to Lagos port, Comptroller Musa assured that the completion of the road would lead to increase in economic activity for the country.
He also informed the journalists that the command now conducts joint cargo examination with other relevant government agencies and they also issue a joint report for release of cargoes.
He also said that with the implementation of the Customs Information Integration System (NICIIS) 2, it is no longer cumbersome for importers to get release their consignment from the port.
Speaking earlier, President of MARAN, Mr. Anya Njoku stressed the need for customs to preserve the jobs of Nigerian clearing agents noting that foreigners have taken over their jobs.
Njoku also said that there is need for customs to issue clearing licenses to individuals and not corporate bodies. According to him, it is the corporate bodies that perpetrate most of the crimes in the clearance process.
“This is where most of the problems are emanating from, if you look at the form C30, we are looking at individual declarant and not corporate declarants, it is that corporate declarant that we are having issues with and we are investigation who they are, this is why we say, we want to know who the declarant are”, he stressed.
“If you issue customs license to a company, the foreigners come here and registers a company, he is the managing director, but the chairman would be a Nigerian, meanwhile the managing director is the one taking decisions, signing money and taking money away, so let the declarant not be a corporate entity, let it be an individual so that we would know those who are criminals and hiding under corporate license”, he advised.