The House of Representatives Committee on Customs has given the Nigeria Customs Service two weeks to reduce its 18 cargo clearing stages to four so as to decongest the nation’s ports.
The committee, which made the resolution on Tuesday in Abuja after an interactive session with stakeholders resolved that the Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali, appear before the Committee to explain the processes.
The Chairman of the committee, Rep. Leke Abejide (SDC-Kogi), said the process should be limited to the offices of the Area Controller, Deputy Comptroller Revenue, Officer in Charge of Bond and then Gate.
Abejide said two other stages should be removed to allow for free flow of activities in the ports, describing them as avenues for illegal transactions by corrupt officers of the Service.
He said, “Once it gets to the CAC, the CAC should minute it directly to the Deputy Comptroller Revenue. From there, it goes to Officer in Charge of Bond and then to the Gate for exit.
“We have to do something about this. Let us bring down these procedures to four stages.
“Somebody is getting revenue illegally, but if we do this, we will cut away all these illegalities and the revenue goes to government.”
The Chairman said the committee would not work on the Custom’s 2022 budget if provisions were not made to fix all the scanners in the ports.
Abejide said that government had invested over $420 million on the scanners and the committee would not allow such investment to go down the drain.
The Deputy Comptroller, Tariff and Trade, IsaTalatu, said there is need to investigate the matter before taking action, saying the procedure should not be that cumbersome.
She said the Service was working hard to ensure ease of doing business in the country and security by ensuring only approved goods get into the country.
Isa said any dealer subjected to a cumbersome procedure to clear merchandise should report to the Area Controller.
Earlier, the acting Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, Mohammed Bello-Koko, said that Customs had multiple units within the same port, making the process cumbersome.
Bello-Koko said: “After Customs finishes 100 per cent examination, just when you think it is over, you load your container, you now find another Customs checkpoint within the same port in the name of Federal Strike Force or something and they leave the truck there for 30 minutes to one hour causing a lot of problems.
“And when you go out again, you find another Customs person and that is why Nigeria has lost the transit cargo market.
“What we now have is captive cargo. Even some of the captive cargo is going somewhere else because of the cumbersome way things are done.”
Bello-Koko said some cargoes that should have gone to Niger Republic and other countries through Nigeria went through other countries owing to multiple Customs and police checkpoints between the country and Niger Republic.
The Managing Director, Inland Container Nigeria Limited, Ismail Yusuf, also said there were too many tables through which documents were processed before cargoes go out of the ports.
Yusuf said it should not be more than three if the Service scanners were activated at the port and electronic clearing system deployed.
He added that because Customs often changed procedures without prior notification of stakeholders, trying to adjust to such instant changes causes delays.
Yusuf said the poor means of transportation out of the port was another challenge, stressing the need for road reconstruction and provision of other transport options.