Charles Epowei Edike, comptroller of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and customs area controller (cAc), Apapa Area One customs command, has called on importers, freight forwarders and customs licensed agents to avail themselves to the facilities of the trade hub portal developed by the Service.
Addressing stakeholders at a validation meeting on Corruption Risks Assessment (CRA) organized by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Edike said the trade hub portal was developed to enable importers access information on import guidelines and processes without making direct contact with officials of government agencies.
One of the factors identified for corrupt practices at the nation’s seaports according to him is human contacts which will be reduced if the portal, which creates a single window system, is wholly embraced. “The single window system is reducing man to man contact. The system tells you whether you need to see the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and control (Nafdac), Standard Organisation of Nigeria (Son) or if the items are prohibited, so all man to man interactions are reduced. From that single portal you can access documents. Therefore an agent does not need to see any customs officer to process his clearance. These are methods that the Nigeria Customs Service has put in place to reduce human contact; meaning that if you are transparent, you can carry your goods at the port without talking to a Customs officer except when you go to the Customs Processing Centre (CPC) for documentary checks. Thereafter you will go to the terminal operator and take your consignment”, he explained.
Edike hinted that to simplify the clearance process, more goods now go through scanning at the port, adding that due to low level of compliance by agents in the past, more consignments were channeled to physical examination. “Before now because of matters of compliance, we had more of physical examination of cargoes. About 90 per cent of cargoes were physically examined and also for the need to encourage trade because the risk assessment system was a little bit relax. But now we have 60 percent going in for scanning while 40 percent is divided between the green channel and also the blue channel”, he said.
On allegations that operatives of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) still intercept containers that have been duly released at the port by customs officers, Edike stated that with the directive of the comptroller general of customs that officers should not operate on the roads; there is no justification for FOU operatives’ presence on the roads. He however stated that for reasons of quality control customs officers attached to the unit can stop containers based on intelligence report.
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