A seaport terminal in Lagos (file)

Freight forwarders under the aegis of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents NCMDLCA have written President Muhammadu to seek an urgent review of the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report PAAR, introduced some years ago as part of port reforms to enhance speedy examination and release of imported cargo from the sea and airports.

In a letter dated September 21, 2020, addressed to President Buhari, the group observed that there was urgent need to review the policy, as its objectives of ensuring speedy and unencumbered inspection of imported cargo before shipment have not been achieved.

According to the letter, which was signed by the president of the association, Lucky Amiwero, with copies sent to President of the Senate, Ministers and Finance and Transport and Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, part of the objectives of the PAAR include to enhance revenue collection, border security and trade facilitation.

Others include the utilisation of pre-classification and pre-valuation mechanism to facilitate the importation of goods into Nigeria and improve the efficiency of Customs clearance and also enhance a comprehensive assessment of imported goods by classifying and valuing them based on international standards and conventions in order to generate a PAAR for analysing risks

Amiwero, who is also a member of Presidential Task Force to reform the Nigeria Customs Service however regretted that several years after, the objectives of setting up the PAAR have not been met, as most of the proposed features  are not realisable, a development that calls for urgent review .

The letter reads in part: “We hereby bring to the attention of the Federal Government the process of PAAR that is not procedurally backed by law and its treatment. We find it expedient to draw the attention of government on our responsibility to conform to international best practice and law of the land, especially as signatory Trade Facilitation Agreement TFA, the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement AFCFTA and other trade conventions.

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 the select the principle of examination to be conducted with frequent lifting of value in contravention of the CEMA (Amendment) Act 20 of 2003.

“We have also observed that rather than achieve its set objectives, what obtains now is duplication and lifting of value in contravention of the Customs and Excise Management (Amendment) Act 20 of 2003 and the World Trade Organisation WTO Convention on inspection of goods, as it duplicates processes in its application and causes delays in the port.

None of the objectives for introducing the PAAR has been achieved as at today, which gives worries to the trading public.

“The PAAR process lacks in its two components; assessment and report, as they only contain  documents submitted  that were not physically inspected to generate report   to give the backing of  assessment based on the report, which are actually  documentary checks and information  supplied by the importer without physical inspection,  in clear contravention of WTO Convention on import inspection”