•NCMDLCA petitions Buhari, says policy not procedurally backed by law
Steve Agbota, [email protected]
In 2013, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) introduced the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) to replace the Risk Assessment Report (RAR), formerly issued by the destination inspection service providers. Part of the purpose then was to enhance revenue collection, border security and trade facilitation among others.
But since inception of PAAR, clearing of imports at Nigerian ports has become laborious and cumbersome. The goods that importers used to clear within seven to 14 days now take a minimum of four to seven weeks, which contradicts Ease of Doing Business at the nation’s seaports.
Stakeholders said the PAAR regime has failed since they now face tougher clearing processes at the ports. This has made importers to look for alternative, thus the diversion of cargoes to neighbouring West African ports to reduce delay and cost, which is injurious to the nation’s economy.
Presently, it takes importers over a month after the arrival of goods at the port to get the PAAR, which is supposed to be issued by Customs before the arrival of the goods. This has slowed down clearing activities at the ports, such that importers and their agents spend longer time taking delivery of their consignment.
This has increased the cost of doing business in Nigerian ports, as importers have to pay massive demurrage and storage charges to shipping companies and terminal operators for late clearance of goods from the port.
Investigation by our reporter shows that due to poor management or implementation of PAAR, 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 due to lack of imputs.
However, in a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari, the President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, said there was urgent need to review the present PAAR by setting up committee of experts to look into the process, so as to accommodate the realities with present destination inspection operation regime.
“We hereby bring to the attention of the Federal Government, the process of PAAR that is not procedurally backed by law and its treatment. PAAR has no legal relevance with regards to pre-assessment procedures and treatment of imports, as such goods are not pre-assessed before arrival and not inspected, which requires that you select the principle of examination to be conducted, with frequent lifting of value in contravention of the Customs and Excise Management (Amendment) Act 20 of 2003.”
According to him, the process is being duplicated, which contravens the Customs and Excise Management Amendment Act 20 of 2003 and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Convention inspection of goods.
He added that the objectives of introducing the PAAR have not been met as at today, which is worrisome to the trading public, adding that PAAR is not backed by any existing law and not recognised for the treatment of valuation and other Customs matters. PAAR cannot meet up with international valuation process as its component is strange to any law of the land.
He said the only law that is binding on the inspection and procedure for the conduct of inspection is covered under section of the Pre-Shipment Act, which includes the issuance of Clean Report of Finding (CRF). This ascertains the inspection of goods conducted before shipment, which requires minimal inspection.
“PAAR indicates that all formalities as to inspection of quality, quantity and value have been conducted and the report is the final process of payment and collection of good by the importer/ Licensed Customs Agents, which is still subjected to multiple interventions by the NCS. This is in contravention of WCO Kyoto Convention of Customs core principle of harmonisation and simplification of Customs procedures, Nigeria being a contracting party,” he said.
However, he said since the inception of Destination Inspection (DI) in 2006 till date, the inspection fee is drawn from the Section 3-(1) of the Pre-Shipment Act to service the inspection scheme, which is still the law for inspection of import of goods.
He insisted that PAAR is procedurally not linked or tied to any law and it has no assessment or report content to process, as there is no report or assessment done, but only documentary information, which is not qualified for international validation procedure.
He, therefore, urged the Federal Government to review the PAAR in line with international best practice by setting up a committee of experts to look into the trade procedure in order to bring it in tandem with the present destination inspection operation regime.