Stakeholders under the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents ANLCA at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu are currently groaning under the shoddy implementation of the Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System NICIS II platform, which is recommended by the World Trade Organisation WTO as part of measures to eliminate encumbrances in the trade supply chain.

Chairman, Enugu Airport Chapter of the association, Abugu Chinedu, who spoke in a recent interview, observed that the primary aim of the NICIS 11 platform, which is an advance model of the Automated System for Customs Data ASYCUDA++,  is to facilitate trade, is currently proving counterproductive due to its poor handling.

According to him, the Customs Command at the airport failed to harmonise the NICIS11 platform with that of the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report PAAR, a development that is currently taking its toll not only on freight forwarders and customs brokerage agents but also on importers and other cargo owners.

It was gathered that students, missionaries and other related cargo owners remain the greatest victims of this poor implementation of the policy that should under normal circumstances ease the challenges encountered by these categories of stakeholders.

“The implementation of the NICIS11 at the Enugu International Airport without creating a platform to handle non-PAAR consignments has brought about unprecedented hardship to stakeholders in clearing processes at the airport.

“As we speak, it would surprise you to know that the only cargo that does not go through the NICIS11 platform at the Enugu International Airport is human remains. Goods belonging to missionaries and students that travelled abroad to further their studies such as books and other academic materials are subjected to PAAR at the Enugu Airport.

“Samples of goods that weigh 20 kilogram are made to go through NICIS 11. In fact, the Customs officer in charge of the airport unequivocally told me that any item that has airway bill must go through NICIS 11. As we all know, in freight operations, NICIS 11 brings about a great challenge because of the time space between the issuance of proforma invoice and the actual arrival of the goods thus making it difficult for us to receive the documents before the arrival of the goods.

“It was in the light of this that we suggested that goods such as personal effects and other goods for home use should not be subjected to PAAR. Imagine a passenger, whose personal luggage could not arrive as accompanied goods for no fault of his and on getting to the airport to present his passport, tickets and other travelling documents and he is asked to get a PAAR, which makes a mockery of the entire customs brokerage business”, he had lamented.

The stakeholders are further alarmed by decision of the Customs Command to approve four bonded terminals in Enugu town where goods seized under the NICIS 11 policy would kept, a development that if not nipped in the bud, might destroy peoples’ means of livelihood.

It was gathered that efforts by the leadership of the Customs command to discuss the issues on a round table have proved abortive, as the clearing agents and some officers of the command that spearheaded such meeting were accused of colluding to truncate the NICIS 11 policy, which is under normal circumstances designed to facilitate trade by removing such encumbrances.

Investigations however showed that the Enugu Airport chapter of the association is concluding plans to petition the national body in Lagos, arguing that Customs brokerage agents in Abuja and Lagos international airports are not made to face such hurdles.