By Chinonye Anyatonwu.
The founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Boniface Okechukwu Aniebonam has called on Freight Forwarders to partner with Government to ensure maximum or appropriate trade facilitation compliance.
Dr.Aniebonam in a chat with media men at the official unveiling of the NAGAFF 100% compliance Team at Eleganza plaza, Apapa, stated the need for proper enlightenment and training of Freight Forwarders working at the port.
” NAGAFF is doing the right thing, we are trying our best so that in future, our children will want to take Freight Forwarding as a profession, face the society with your shoulders high, we have the license to operate and has the authority of moving cargo from one point to another, see yourself as those who are making very serious contribution to the national economy.
“A lot of people are panicking with the movement of our compliance team, those who carry containers in the night, some of them are our members, but we can’t continue this way, we must let Government to know that we are responsible, its about time we took responsibility, we must not continue to quarrel with Customs, Police and others.
“Some agents loose their cargo in the process of declaring falsely, it doesn’t make sense, nothing kills an economy like bribe, you can be what you want to be without bribe, don’t be intimidated by anyone, inspector general of police, CGC of custom, Director General of any organization working at the port can never ask anybody to go and collect bribe from anybody or harass anybody, so don’t be intimidated, just do the right thing and let the person try and abuse the power he has, that’s when Nagaff compliance task force team will come in”, he advised.
Aniebonam pointed out that a lot of Freight Forwarders are been intimidated in the port over nothing, and that the compliance will always tackle any unnecessary intimidation, adding that the team will make sure that freight forwarders follow the approved process in cargo clearance.
The chairman of the team, Alhaji Ibrahim Tanko earlier disclosed that the group was going to have a two weeks seminar for compliance team and will commence work afterwards.
“We are here to work with the Nigeria customs Services to help them to achieve their target. We are going to have two weeks seminar for the compliance team and after that, we will start work”, he said.
We can’t do anything without knowledge, so we are going to make sure that all members of the compliance team have knowledge, we are no longer the way they used to address us, we are learned and we are going to work like professionals”, he stated.
On the need or otherwise for return of pre-shipment inspection agents to the seaports, the Anambra state born freight forwarder said that freight forwarders don’t want to hear anything about scanner because it wastes their time and often times amounts to double handling.
Aniebonam observed that freight forwarders hate it when they manage to get into queue and the scanner would still take them back to physical examination adding that they would rather go straight for physical examination and get out of the port.
When reminded that physical examination was being carried out on only containers the scanners singled out as suspects, he argued out that 95 per cent of the containers were usually rerouted by the scanners for physical examination adding that “it is automatically physical when the items are not homogenous.”
He continued, “If you have two to three different items in the container, the scanner will be confused to the extent that a carton will shift, there will be a hole, it will give you a negative image, it write suspect. So, you go for physical examination.
“So, freight forwarders don’t want to hear anything about scanner because it is not giving them what they want, it wastes their time and time is money. The latest scanner is what we should be talking about which uses chips, it will just take information and will be returning information about everything in the container. That is what we should be talking about otherwise, forget scanners.
“Freight forwarders want scanners that will give them information on time. Their job is to move goods on time, at the most economic cost. But to bring a scanner, I want to repeat that other than going straight to do physical examination will continue to reroute them up and down, it doesn’t make sense and at the end of the day, you go back to physical examination. And I have told you that the scanner most times put all these cargoes on suspect because the image that it brings out makes the consignment a suspect except we will get the latest scanner that gives you the details about the actual content of a container.”
Aniebonam who is also the National Chairman of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) however harped on the need to take a second look at the use of hydro scanners at the ports which according to him are now obsolete arguing that “it does not make sense talking about these levels of scanners we have at the ports now.”
“The international maritime community has gone above that in port operation, they are no longer using this, they are obsolete. These scanners here cannot give you anything, it will only give you an image and you need somebody who is knowledgeable to interpret it but most time you see that the image it will give us will result to physical examination because even ordinary carton, if they are not homogenous, even when they are not homogenous in that very container, it may shift, the image will show that there is something and it will not tell you what it is until you go for physical examination. So, why are we wasting time?” he queried.
On who should man the scanners when eventually deployed, the NAGAFF founder observed that “the right person to man the scanners should be the customs”, as according to him, “Customs has trained over twelve to thirteen thousand officers or maybe not up to that but I know it has trained many officers on the rudiments of scanning operation and all that and the highest one, security issues and revenue.”
“To what extent can we allow foreigners to come and man our scanners? Then the state of the nation is under threat security wise. Remember when those arms came, if customs were not the one manning that examination; that would have been an issue. So, nobody should talk about that now”, he added.
He continued, “Meanwhile, if for anything we get a scanner, customs should handle the scanner; we don’t need all these people. The 1 percent CISS, we need this money to develop capacity. A lot of Nigerians are looking for work. 1 percent CISS value, that is even what they are targeting, most of these people struggling. We don’t have such money to waste now even with the effect of Covid-19. CISS has been the issue, that is the main target and that is what we are saying, unless government wants to create food for the boys because the customs has the capacity to man the scanners and in terms of revenue, in terms of the security of the state, you cannot beat the customs for that and they are properly trained for that and they are Nigerians.
“We cannot return pre-shipment inspectors, for what purpose? The World Trade Organization, the World Customs Organization doesn’t want to hear that nonsense. We cannot examine a container that we have to deploy external forces, what is the meaning?”