Freight forwarders on Monday in Lagos said the actions of the House Committee on Customs gravely undermined their operations, following the sudden exemption of First Bank on duty payment.
The Freight Forwarders who operate from the nation’s sea ports, made this declaration at a town hall meeting on Monday in Lagos aimed at addressing the challenges affecting their operations.
In attendance at the town hall meeting are members from different groups such as NAGAF, ANCLA, AREEF, NCMDLCA, and NAFFAC.
The group asserted that the committee on customs should have consulted and informed the associations before taking any decision concerning the profession.
They argued that the recent action by the lawmakers has a gross rippling effect on cargo clearance.
Speaking on behalf of the other association’s presidents to declare the event open, Acting National President of ANLCA, Dr Farinto Kayode Collins decried the recent decision by the House of Representatives Committee on Customs to suspend First Bank PLC from customs duty collections without any notice to freight forwarders, which according to him, is causing pains and hardship for freight agents.
Farinto disclosed that freight agents cannot clear their consignments from the ports due to the development
The ANLCA Chieftain further recalled that a similar issue occurred last year with Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) on duty payment without due consultation from the government adding that freight agents or shippers will not be held responsible for demurrage charges this time around.
He also lamented the issue of the freight forwarders not taking their profession seriously, when it comes to discussions to draw government and other regulators’ attention to their plight, even as he cautioned the practitioners to always attend stakeholders’ deliberations concerning their operations, in furtherance to be equipped and be informed about activities surrounding international trade and customs related matter.
He said the town hall meeting will come in three phases, customs operations, shipping companies operations, and the terminal operator’s operations, saying the day’s delibrations center on challenges faced by freight forwarders in customs operations.
“We later find out it was not the customs that yanked the first bank out of the system rather it was the house committee on Customs. People know they have their oversight function but there was supposed to be a time frame before that action should have been taken by them.
“The house committee didn’t give us the required information about this development and we cannot continue like this when banks will be yanked like that without proper information from them.
“This issue happened last year with GTB and there was no information from them to us. Going further by extension if this issue happened again we are going to challenge the lawmakers and take a stand.
On customs operations, Farinto urged the freight forwarders to discuss with open minds by pointing out the challenges they are facing with customs, adding that lack of information from customs, especially on banned items before it is yanked off the importation prohibited has created great concerns to the freight forwarders.
Farinto however called on the practitioners to be compliant with customs clearance processes and procedures in a more refined modus operandi.
He, further echoed that compliance is a two-way thing thus, freight forwarders should first of all follow due process while engaging personnel of customs.
The acting President urged the practitioners from the various associations to have robust discussions on the Vin Valuation Policy, PAAR, among other discussions with customs management..
On his part, the pioneer National President of ANLCA, Dr Rafiu Ladipo, and the Board of Trustees chairman NCMDLCA appreciated all the presidents of Associations for putting up the Town Hall meeting, saying it will bring back the good old days, where Customs and other agencies of government cannot take decisions without consulting them.
Ladipo said freight forwarders can make good names if they do it right. He said everybody must be ready to comply, even as he wished the freight forwarders fruitful deliberations.
The Group presence at the meeting includes: the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents ( ANLCA) National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders ( NAGAFF), the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Nigeria Association of Freight Forwarders and Consolidators ( NAFFAC) and Association of Registered Freight Forwarders ( AREFFN) organize the town hall meeting with the theme ” Way Forward on Challenges Militating against Cargo Clearance”, frowned at government attitudes for failing to consult practitioners which in turn has dire consequences on the trading community on cargo clearance from the ports.
Meanwhile, at a closed-door session where operators and the customs brainstormed on the challenges and the way forward, two Customs Area Controllers from Apapa and Tin Can Island Commands were represented by their Deputy Comptrollers. For Apapa, DC Enforcement, DC F.O. Alagbo, while DC D. Gaura represented the Customs Controller, Tin Can Island Port.
They further assured the freight agents of cordial working relationships and fruitful engagement as part of measures to facilitate trade.
In attendance, were: ANLCA, Acting National President, Dr Kayode Farinto, President of NAGAFF, Tochukwu Esizi, Tony Onyike represented NAFFAC, Chief Ifeanyi Anakweze for NCMDLCA and Bala Lawan Daura, President AREFFN.
Executives, Chieftains of the Freight Forwarding Associations, officials from the Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), executives of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners ( AMATO), and others were present at the town hall meeting.