Manufacturers have attributed delay in clearing of their imported raw materials from Nigerian ports to poor implementation of the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR). Due to delays in processing the PAAR, a document introduced in December 2013 by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), a lot of imported raw materials are trapped at the ports longer than necessary, which affects manufacturers, as they are sometimes unable to meet their production deadline.
Clearing of imports from Nigerian seaports has become a difficult task in the past months, as goods formerly cleared within days now take a minimum of four to seven weeks, thus causing manufacturers protracted delay, high demurrage and expenses. The manufacturers are apprehensive that delays in the clearing process of goods at the ports, holding up their raw materials, have slowed down or halted their production processes.
Meanwhile, President of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mansur Ahmed, had pleaded with the government to direct the NCS, the Nigerian Ports Authority and related agencies of government to treat all requests from manufacturers expeditiously with great sense of responsibility and understanding of the prevailing situation.
He explained that as a matter of urgency, the government should direct that cargoes containing manufacturing raw materials are cleared swiftly and ensure compliance with additional free days from the terminal and shipping lines to clear the containers to avoid demurrage as already announced.For its part, the LCCI had noted that the business community is compelled to interface with too many units of the NCS and other government agencies which makes doing business extremely difficult and frustrating. It also predisposes the system to brazen extortionist practices.
These units include the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) office, valuation units, examination, releasing, unblocking, DC report, stamping unit, exit gate, enforcement.
The chamber noted that PAAR Issued by Customs headquarters are frequently queried by customs operatives at the ports. 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.
“The trade facilitation role of the Nigerian Customs Service has been practically jettisoned in pursuit of revenue targets. This disposition is impacting negatively on investors. 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.
The frustrations of importers are 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, the LCCI said.
The Acting Director General of MAN, Ambrose Oruche, noted that there was the period it took about three days to clear consignments, now it takes weeks to clear your goods, and in the process you incur demurrage and a lot of expenses. This he said has also contributed to the congestion of the ports.
“The ports infrastructure are congested, and worse now than it used to be. Its like we are going backwards in terms of port management instead of moving forward.
“That has been the story of manufacturers. It has been ups and downs.”
A manufacturer and an importer, the Chief Executive Officer of Aarti Steel Nig Ltd, Imokhai Ehimigbai, confirmed the delay in clearing of their goods, which is mainly raw materials as a result of the slow processing of PAAR, noting that without contacts with those in authority, it was difficult to clear these goods.
Applauding the government for making good policies for ease of business at the ports, Ehimigbai lamented that Customs was hiding a lot from the public in delaying the PAAR, trying to frustrate government’s efforts.
“Customs knows what is causing the delay, they need to tell manufacturers what is causing delay in clearance of goods at the ports. If you don’t have agents that have influence, the goods remain there.
“There is a current case of two clearing agents who said they spent their money to process clearance of goods (PAAR for manufacturers).
He allegedly noted that the government says one thing, but those meant to implement the policies do otherwise, adding that they deliberately delay the documents, to make money.