NAGAFF laments serial cargo seizures by Customs … advises freight forwarders on true documentation

Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, Founder, NAGAFF

By Gboyega Oni

Worried and pained over recent serial seizures of cargo by the Comptroller General of Customs Compliance Team and the Federal Operation Unit, Ikeja, the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has advised freight forwarders to make genuine declarations while dealing with the Nigeria Customs Service on cargo clearance.

In its press release, NAGAFF said a lot of goods seized were because of untrue declaration and this could have been avoided if only genuine declarations were made by importers and their agents.

The association noted that it had consistently advocated and advised its members and other freight forwarders on matters of genuine declaration for customs purpose and relevance of proper customs examination of laden containers in the customs ports.

Admitting that corruption in the customs operations is initiated by importers, NAGAFF said that declarations made for customs purposes at the time are usually fraught with non disclosure of the actual content of laden containers by importers to their agents who always assume the role of customs officers on matter of duty calculation and accounting.

NAGAFF said this approach to customs related matters is very wrong as these avoidable circumstances are subjecting the investment of importers to the breaches of customs laws as contained in Sections 46, 47 and 161 of Customs and Excise and Management Act (CEMA). Adding that the resultant effects are usually the seizure of imports and prosecution of offenders.

“We have consistently advocated and advised freight forwarding practitioners on matters of genuine declaration for Customs purpose and relevance of proper Customs examination of laden containers in the Customs ports. It is a fact that corruption in the Customs operations are remotely initiated by importers at the time of making declaration for Customs purposes at the traders zone of ASYCUDA 3.0 version. It is also no longer news that declarations made for Customs purposes at the time of securing pre-arrival assessment notice from the Customs are usually fraught with non disclosure of the actual content of laden containers.

“It becomes more worrisome when freight agents undertake responsibilities from the importers with merely a copy of the bill of lading without other supporting import documents. In most cases is group of agents in a bid to secure job orders usually stay in the comfort of their offices and assume the role of Customs officers on matters of revenue collection and accounting.

“This is a very wrong approach to Customs related matters and for the purposes of clearing goods out of Customs control in the Customs ports. The point herein canvassed is to state clearly that these avoidable circumstances are subjecting the investment of importers to the breaches of Customs laws as contained in Sections 46, 47 and 161 of Customs and Excise and Management Act (CEMA). The resultant effects are usually to the effect that such imports are subject of seizure and prosecution of offenders in law courts.

“A trip to Ikeja where the CGC compliance team and the Federal Operations Unit are operating will indicate serial seizures of goods against offenders of Customs laws which is bothering on matters of untrue declaration for Customs purposes. A lot of goods are being seized which could have been avoided if only genuine declarations of trade goods were made,” NAGAFF said.

Proffering solutions,  NAGAFF has this to say: “The right way to go is to conform to import and export regulations by making genuine declaration for Customs purposes. Let it be on record that freight agents have the duty to educate and enlighten their principals on the need to be compliant to import and export regulations with a view to protecting their investments against any breach of Customs laws.

“May we again advise all freight forwarders who undertake third party documentation of imports to be wary of the security and revenue risks being taken for no good reasons.

“It is the statutory duty of CRFFN to ensure that the skills and knowledge of practitioners are improved upon through qualifying examinations and certification of individual practitioners. Accordingly, we urge CRFFN to steer up all the approved institutions of learning accredited for the training and retraining of practitioners. The importance of education and knowledge of the business of freight forwarding and logistics cannot be overemphasized.”

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