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Era of under-declaring over 80% of sea cargo to end with tracking note—Bello

The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Barr Hassan Bello, has assured that the days of importers and criminally minded clearing agents getting away with over 80 per cent under-declared goods at Nigerian ports are coming to an end sooner than later.

In an interview, he revealed that whereas the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) is seriously working on brining in latest technology driven scanners at the ports, “the Nigerian Shippers Council will introduce the cargo tracking note.”

“We can’t bow to the wishes of a few people who benefit from the chaos. The scanners will soon be installed. The Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) is represented at the CBN committee working frantically to see the scanners are ready. Scanners are not off-the-shelf items, they will have to be fabricated, and there are modern ones that won’t allow you to conceal things.

He said “the tracking note allows you to know what items are coming into Nigeria from the port of loading, so the customs already knows its duties. 80 per cent of the goods coming into Nigeria are under-declared. But with the advance cargo information system or cargo tracking note, there is no hiding place.”

NSC Bello H
Executive Secretary of NSC, Barr. Hassan Bello

“The weight, origin, cost and everything about the goods are known before they even arrive Nigeria. It will be sent electronically to the customs. It is a security document and we would have no more firearms and other things coming in, or at least we will know they are coming in. continuing, Bello averred that the synergy between Customs scanners and cargo tracking note by Shippers’ Council will end the chaos experienced in the process of processing imported goods at the ports very soon.

According to him, tracking note is a source of data for us to organise and make plans.

“Thirdly, it is also for faster clearance of cargo because if you know what is coming in, you will arrange ahead for it to be cleared quickly. Ultimately, we will also have the national single window, the one stop shop for the interaction of all relevant agencies at the port. It will make our ports efficient.

On the genesis of the endless clearing chaos situation at the seaports, Bello decried that “Apapa Port is a port that was meant to take 23,000 metric tonnes of goods in the 1970s. Now it is doing 83,000 or 84,000 tonnes per annum.

“This means four-fold increase or thereabout. It is no rocket science to know that our population will grow by at least 2.6 per cent based on UN estimates.

“We should have planned to ensure that the eventualities were taken care of. Most important is the connectivity to the port. Our insistence despite logic that roads or any other mode should be the only mode of evacuating cargo from the port is a problem.

“We have no rail linkage to the ports, there used to be. We could have inland waterways – badges taking goods away from the ports.

“And the tank farms were created despite the fact that it is easier to have pipelines convey the products from Apapa to other parts of the country.

In giving workable solution to the observed capacity crisis, he said “So the lack of multimodal mode of evacuation in Apapa; I think, is the most important thing. It is just like you have flood without outlets for the water to get out. But even the call-up system does not appear to be working. I have witnessed how chaotic it is.

Customs CG, Hameed-Ali
Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Retired Col. Hameed Ali

“There is also allegation of corruption that does not allow the system to work. The economy at the ports is in such a way that from October, the peak season has started. That is when you have a surge in imports; Christmas and end-of-year things. This is short term.

“Now the FG has said the railways should be linked to the Apapa and Tincan ports. This should happen by March, 2020, So that we can evacuate cargo quickly.

“During the time of Okonjo Iweala as finance minister, there was this fight against the scanners because we heard there were people who benefitted from the chaos in clearing since they would charge discretionary charges…, Shippers’ Council boss averred.