Operators in the maritime industry have renewed calls for the reinstatement of cross-examination of goods at the Nigeria Customs Service exit-gates in all the nation’s ports, saying that the re-introduction of the examination would further strengthen the influx of importation of some harmful goods.
Recently, the Federal Government ordered the stoppage of cross-examination of goods at the Customs exit-gates under its ongoing effort to increase the nation’s ‘ease of doing business’ ranking.
According to Gabriel Omenukor, leader of Customs Licensed Agents/ Importers Transparency Group (CLA/ ITG), in an interview with Maritime and Energy Media Practitioners of Nigeria (MEMPON), the stoppage of the cross-examination of goods at Customs exit-gate, would rather jeopardise the government purpose, as it would hamper thorough examination of goods at the ports.
Citing the recent discovery of container loads of arms at Lagos Port and Tin-Can Island Port as a case, he said if the cross-examination of goods at Customs exit-gate were carried out such goods would have been discovered before they ever entered the Nigerian customs jurisdiction.
The group had last week expressed dissatisfaction with reasons advanced by the Federal Government for stoppage of goods cross-examination at Customs exit-gate as “promoting ease of doing business at the port.”
According to CLA/ITG, goods cross-examination at Customs exit-gate has done the nation good than harm; and should, therefore, be re-introduced.
Omenukor argued that through cross-examination of goods at Customs exit-gate, there have been interceptions of goods not properly documented at the terminals; adding that some of the intercepted goods were being moved with fake documents in connivance with some operatives at the terminals.
However, the Customs licensed agents/ importers transparency group boss maintained that much as they were in full support of the Federal Government’s mandate on increasing “ease of doing business at the ports, cautioned government of the need to maintain proper documentation procedures and adequate security of goods, saying that the new order would create more loopholes for fraud and loss of government revenue at the ports.
The transparency group, however, emphasised that intelligence report across all of the nation’s ports and border stations has shown that majority of the goods involving wrong declarations, undervaluation and concealment are detected and intercepted by officers of Nigeria Customs Service at the Customs exit-gates.
They, therefore, cautioned on the need to maintain the status-quo in order to avoid movement of prohibited items, including arms and ammunition through Nigeria Ports given the tensed security situation in the country.
For the Customs licensed agents/ importers transparency group, the reinstatement of goods cross-examination at Customs exit-gates can be further enhanced by the installation of scanners at the ports.