By Gboyega Oni
The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) is desirous of ending importation of substandard products through the ports and land borders into the country. One of the steps put forward by the organisation towards achieving it is the introduction of the electronic transaction platforms such as e-Receipt, e-Demand Note and e-Clearance.
Engineer Yahya A. Bukar, Head of Port and Border Operation, SON, told PortNews in a chat in Lagos that the e-platforms, still undergoing test-running, are designed purposely to make cargo clearance processes and procedure simple, fast and cost efficient for customs licensed agents and their principals, importers.
Explaining the workings of the e-platforms under the test-running arrangement, Engineer Bukar said that a Profiling Index Desk (PID) has been established in the SON port offices for the test-running where customs agents would tender their documents and e-demand note is generated, which they take to the bank for payment purpose.
According to him, when duty is paid and the bank teller is returned to the PID where an e-receipt is issued. Once this is done, the agent can then go to the port for cargo examination which, he said, is electronically done too.
While the cargo is being examined in the port, all the necessary data about it such as brand name, state of origin, name of the manufacturer, SONCAP number etc are being sent to the e-clearance portal on the SON website detailing the status of the cargo. According to him, if there are infractions, it will be reported by the e-clearance portal and the cargo will not be released. And if there are none, it will be stated; the agent is immediately directed to proceed to the customs for the final release.
But once the e-clearance portal indicates infractions in the status of the examined cargo, the cargo will not be released. Three letters, according to Bukar, will be issued conveying the infractions associated with the cargo. One of the letters is addressed to the agent, telling him why his cargo is not released; another one to the Customs informing them why the cargo must not be released and the last letter is addressed to the SON Compliance department for necessary compliance action.
He, however, maintained that there is a re-dress portal on the SON website which gives agents and importers opportunity to respond to the infractions committed. And once they provide the correct information appropriately the cargo is due for releasing, said Bukar.
Bukar stressed that the e-platforms, interactive in nature, will be upgraded after the test-running and give importers and agents ample opportunity to log in into the SON website and perform all the e-transactions without necessarily coming to the SON offices. According to him, the platforms are integrity-proven; importers and their agents must display a high level of integrity by declaring their cargo documents correctly.
When asked why importers are still engaging in sharp practices since the e-platforms are integrity-proven, Bukar informed that the current internet platform, NICIS 1, being used by the Nigeria Customs Service, which is connected to ASYCUDA and which SON is connected to, still gives room to false declaration and manipulation. He noted that when the Customs is migrated to NICIS 2, falsification will be become impossible.
Engineer Bukar averred that the e-Receipt, e-Demand Note and e-Clearance would help SON to save time and reduce cost being spent on cargo clearance in the port by agents and the organisation. He added that it would also help to forestall congestion as cargo would be timely released which is the ultimate goal of the Ease of Doing Business policy of the Federal Government.
Bukar was of the opinion that the e-transaction channels would make products available quickly in the markets for consumers and as well create a good relationship and better understanding between SON and its stakeholders.