Maritime Group petitions FG over NESREA’s Import Clearance Permit

………. Wars on increase of port procedures

The last is yet to be heard concerning the fuss over the recent on-line import business advert by the National Environmental Standards Regulation and Enforcement Agency (NESREA) which called on importers to obtain and rely on its newly created clearance permit for the imported products into the country.

 A group, Sea Empowerment and Research Centre Ltd, in a petition dated May 30th, 2018, addressed to the co-ordinator, Dr. B. Oduwole, of the Business Environment Secretariat, Nigeria Investment Promotion Council (NEPC), has frowned at the recent move by NESREA, stating that the clearance permit as being dished out, has the capacity to ‘‘further increase documentary processes and procedures in our international trade and Security Supply Chain (ITSSC).’’ The group said the measure would equally thwart ‘‘the reasonable achievements recorded via the presidential (Executive) order on the ease of doing business’’, which according to it, the federal government has been faithfully committed to realise.

 In a release entitled, ‘‘ Re: HOW NESREA CLEARANCE PERMIT REPLACES SONCAP’’, copied to the Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senate President, Speaker, House of Representatives, Secretary to the Federal Government, Ministers of Finance, Industry, Trade & Investment, Transportation, Health, Agriculture, Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Shippers’ Council, Director Generals, NIMASA, SON, NAFDAC, Quarantine Services, NDLEA, Managing Director, Nigeria Ports Authority, as well as the Inspector General of Police, the Maritime Stakeholders regretted that NESREA’s environment clearance permit has been designed to create unnecessary barriers to trade which are against both Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) as well as the Agreement on Sanitary Phytosanitary Measures (SPS).

 The statement signed by Dr. Eugene Nweke, Director, Research and Development of the group, maintained that the environmental clearance permit initiative remained a deliberate move to duplicate and take over the standards regulatory functions of SON, appealing to the authorities to call NESREA officials or whoever placed the on-line publication to order

The statement observed: ‘the import and intent of the ACT establishing the NESREA is emphatic on its name/acronym ‘National Environmental Standards Regulatory and Enforcement Agency’. The performance and functional word is ENVIRONMENTAL STANDARDS REGULATIONS AND ENFORCEMENT and NOT IMPORT TRADES/ PRODUCTS QUALITY STANDARDS REGULATIONS. The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) is the Nigeria domestication nomenclature for the International Standards Organisation (ISO) established by a Convention, globally recognized and working collaboratively with World Trade Organization (WTO), International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), World Customs Organization (WCO), etc for decades.

 Notably the ISO rules on the application of mandatory standards (aka Technical Regulations) are contained in the Agreement on Technical Barrier to Trade (TBT) while the Agreement on the application of the Sanitary Phytosanitary measures (SPS) lays down rules and applicable measures.

 The basic aims of the detailed rules and guidelines of the two Agreements are to ensure that technical sanitary and phytosanitary  regulations are not formulated and applied by countries, to (avoid) creating unnecessary obstacles to trade’’. The group therefore stated that under the prevailing scenario NESREA’s present trade practice portends unnecessary obstacles hence environmental standards regulation has no likeness to import trades/products quality standards regulations.

First, it is important to understand that the term ‘Technical Regulations and Standards’ means the international rules applicable to product quality standards used in the trade in goods and the procedures used for accessing conformity with such standards as contained in the agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). The agreement used the term ‘technical regulations’ to cover ‘standards with which compliance is mandatory. While the term standard is used on a voluntary basic’.

The Maritime body therefore asserted that ‘‘NESREA permit on same new import items (products) ideally regulated by the SON is rather a berated deliberate trade practice, a decision that promotes trade process duplications or double handling procedures if not a subtly usurping of functions of the SON with a clear driven motives other than the agency revenue drive; in this case by hook or crook. Before now, importers of USED generators, refrigerators freezers. TV sets, motorcycles, radios transformers etc ( any used electrical appliances that are not ozone layers compliant or having the capacity to deplete the ozone layers are asked to get clearance from NESREA.

‘‘Encouraging shippers to evade SONCAP established due process through the NESREA trade window to open Form M and subsequently process the Customs PAAR, does not guaranty nor stop the SON from intercepting the same import upon ship discharge and clearance of same NESREA import permitted products through the ports. Such interception will lead to cargo detention and further delay, in this case the shipper is left to bear the additional financial burden alone therein. Such seeming inter-agency regulatory conflict when it happens, is referred to as Technical Barrier to Trade (TBT)’’.

‘‘Wherefore other than subjecting the Nigerian Shippers to this duplicated trade practices resulting in high cost of importation with associated delays NESREA should be directed to remain within its environmental standards regulations and allow SON to undertake its legitimate product quality conformity and standards regulatory roles.

The SONCAP/MANCAP should be respected by the NESREA for operational sanity and respect for they monitor and intercept unregulated (non SONCAP/MANCAP Products) any form of smuggled unregulated imports under the inter-agency collaboration basis. The Nigeria Shippers Council should as matter of economic regulatory oversight, investigate this dual trade practice and act accordingly, while extending such investigation into conflicting products standards regulatory obligations between the SON & NAFDAC. Needless to further the widening of the (Cumbersome) cargo documentation procedures,’’ the group re-stated. It advised the National Assembly take a second look at the enabling Act establishing the NESREA, SON and NAFDAC, etc. especially as the affects import products permit jurisdiction, with the aim to nib on board, the cross function and regulatory conflicts questions inherent in the nation’s trading environment. The secretariat of the Business Enabling should re-examine the level of added value by each of the concerned agencies in our international trade documentation procedures.

‘‘The EBES should undertake wider re-examination of the prevalent cost elements on import trade products documentary procedures and processes prior to cargo shipping into the country. The amount shippers spend on account of streamlined documentary shipping procedures at the port and original is adding up to the high cost of trading in Nigeria’’ it regretted.

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