As Shippers Council urged to investigate dual practices
By Gboyega Oni
To end the war over product regulations among government agencies, particularly between the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the National Environmental Standards & Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), and save importers from cumbersome cargo documentation procedures, the National Assembly (NASS) has been charged to take a second look at the Acts establishing NESREA, SON and the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) especially as it affects import product permit jurisdiction.
Also the Nigeria Shippers Council, as the economic regulatory, was urged to investigate the dual trade obligations and product standards regulations among the agencies.
The admonition, to both the National Assembly and the Nigerian Shippers Council, was contained in a recent letter written and addressed to the Coordinator of the Enable Business Environment Secretariat (EBES) in Abuja by Dr. Eugene Nweke, a former President of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), that dwelled on an online article with the headline ‘’How NESREA Clearance Permit Replaces SONCAP.’’
Nweke said that the unhealthy rivalry between NESREA permits and SON SONCAP on the same import items (products) regulated by the SON is endemic to economic growth and promotes trade process duplications and rise in cost of importation, noting that it subtly usurps functions of the SON.
He noted that the NESREA permits were encouraging shippers to invade SONCAP, an established due process through the NESREA trade window to open Form M and subsequently process the Customs PAAR, maintaining that NESREA permits do not guarantee nor stop the SON from intercepting the same imports upon ship discharge.
According to him, such interception by SON leads to cargo detention and delay as the shipper is left to bear the additional financial burden alone. He maintained that the unhealthy rivalry over regulations is a clog in the wheel of progress of the Ease of Doing Business policy of the government, charging NESREA to respect the SONCAP/MANCAP, the statutory instruments for products regulations, and face environmental regulations squarely.
Dr. Eugene Nweke said ‘’Sir, If this 13-page import business news article, as captioned above is anything to go by, then, I make bold to state that, there exists a seeming import/product regulatory conflicts in our International Trade and Security Supply Chain (ITSSC), which may tantamount to counterproductive to the canvassed objectives of the presidential directives on the ease of doing business.
‘’The import business news article, for all intent and purposes dwelled on NESREA Environmental Clearance Permit, and noted thus: It is noteworthy to state that trades or imports falling under general products shall first meet and conformed to ISO product manufacturing assessments procedures, rules and regulatory quality – standards.
‘’NESREA permits on same new imports 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, TVs 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 invade SONCAP established due process through the NESREA trade window to open Form M and subsequently process the Customs PAAR, does not guarantee nor stops the SON from intercepting the same import upon ship discharge and clearance of same NESRA 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.
‘’Wherefore, other than subjecting the Nigerian Shippers to this duplicated trade practices resulting to high cost of importation, with associated delays, the 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 SON SONCAP/ MANCAP should be respected by the NESREA for operational sanity and respect to the Ease of doing business. It will be appreciable if the NESREA will collaborate and assist the SON to monitor and intercept unregulated (non SONCAP/MANCAP Products), any form of smuggled unregulated imports under an 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 investigations into conflicting products standards regulatory obligations between the SON & NAFDAC. Needless to further the widening of the (Cumbersome) cargo documentation procedures.
‘’The legislatures may have to take a second look at the enabling Act establishing the NESREA, SON, NAFDAC, etc especially as it affects import products permits jurisdiction, with the aim to nib on board the cross functions and regulatory conflicts questions inherent in our trading environment.’’
Dr. Eugene Nweke, however, advised the EBES to undertake wider re-examination of the prevalent cost elements on import trades/products documentary procedures and processes prior to cargo shipping into the country.
‘’The amount shippers spend on account of un-streamlined documentary shipping procedures at the port of origin is adding up to the high cost of trading in Nigeria,’’ said Nweke, a freight forwarder and consultant to Anambra State Bonded Container Freight Terminal Limited.