LCCI laments challenges facing businesses at Nigerian ports

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry has said Customs processes and procedures for the clearance of cargo at Nigerian ports are among the biggest challenges currently faced by the business community. 

“It is severely hurting investors and adversely affecting economic recovery efforts. The situation calls for urgent intervention and reforms of the Nigerian Customs Service,” the LCCI said in a statement on Sunday.

The Director-General, LCCI, Dr Muda Yusuf, said the trade facilitation role of the NCS had been practically jettisoned in pursuit of revenue targets, adding that this disposition was impacting negatively on investors.

According to him, there are issues of undue delays, weak application of technology, arbitrariness in valuation, impunity, uncertainty of international trade transactions, cost escalation, negative investment climate perception, ineffective mode of seeking redress, and pervasive human interface, among others.

He said, “The business community is compelled to interface with too many units of the Nigerian Customs Service and other government agencies which makes doing business extremely difficult and frustrating.

“It also predisposes the system to brazen extortionist practices.”

Yusuf said the units included the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report office, valuation units, examination, releasing, unblocking, DC report, stamping unit, exit gate, enforcement, and other government agencies that businesses had to contend with at the ports.

“These agencies include the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, Plant Quarantine, State Security Service, Police Anti Bomb Squad, and the Port Police,” he said.

According to the LCCI DG, outside the ports, importers are confronted with Federal Operations Unit of the Customs, Customs Strike Force, and the Customs Police. 

“Encounters by the private sector with these numerous agencies impose unbearable burden on importers and investors in terms of costs, time, and the bureaucracy,” he added.

Yusuf said there were recurring issues of valuation of imports and HS Code classification of products, adding “PAAR issued by Customs headquarters are frequently queried by customs operatives at the ports.”

He said, “Many businesses have suffered severe disruptions in their investment projections because of large variations arising from revision of value and re-classification of imports by the PAAR office at the Customs headquarters and the Customs units at the ports. 

“This phenomenon has become persistent and hurting investors. It has also become a major source of uncertainty for businesses.” 

According to Yusuf, there are too many queries on imports emanating from diverse sources and too many discretionary powers exercised by customs operatives in valuation and classification decisions.

He said the frustrations of importers were compounded by the clumsy, long-winded, bureaucratic processes for seeking redress. 

“Importers hardly get fair hearing because the customs are the accusers and the judge. A fair, just, speedy appeal process is most urgently needed to save the private sector from the tyranny of the Nigerian customs service,” he added.

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