Substandard goods influx: NAGAFF canvasses return of SON to seaports
Founder NAGAFF, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam
BY FRANCIS EZEM
Maritime stakeholders under the aegis of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders NAGAFF have made a strong case for the return of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria SON, to the seaports to participate in cargo examination as part of measures to curtail the seeming uncontrolled influx of fake and substandard goods into the country.
The organisation, Nigeria’s apex standards bureau was in 2013 evicted from the seaports on the orders of the then Minister of Finance and coordinating Minister of the economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala among some other government agencies as part of efforts to reduce bureaucracies associated with multiplicity of agencies at the ports with the attendant delay in clearing of cargo.
Speaking at interactive session with members of Maritime Reporters Association MARAN in Apapa, Lagos, founder of the association, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, said it has become imperative for the Federal Government to rethink the ejection of the organisation from the seaports in view of the worsening cases of influx of fake and substandard goods into the Nigerian market.
According to him, there has not been any remarkable improvement in the process of releasing cargo at the ports following the eviction of the organisation, an indication that there are other factors responsible for the delay in the delivery of cargo at the seaports, which are yet to be addressed.
He argued that in addition to the health hazards the influx of these substandard goods constitute to the lives and wellbeing of the Nigerian citizenry, this development also poses a major threat to the local industry, which products cannot compete with these foreign made products given the harsh operating environment in the country.
“All of us can see that the dwell time of cargo at the nation’s seaports has not improved since SON was asked to leave the seaports about five years ago. What this implies is that it will be wrong to say that the organisation in any way constitutes part of the causes of the delay in cargo delivery, otherwise, as soon as it was evicted, cargo dwell time would have improved tremendously.
“It is also a well-known fact that the responsibility of the Customs Administration globally including the Nigeria Customs Service is to inspect cargo in terms of value in order to collect appropriate revenue and also fight smuggling while agencies such as SON statutorily inspect cargo in terms of meeting the required standards”, Aniebonam argued.
While fielding questions on the rampant cases of imposition of arbitrary charges by shipping companies and terminal operators, he said that the government should invoke sections of relevant laws in the country to punish those involved in this unwholesome practice, which would serve as a deterrent to others.
Specifically, he called on the Nigerian Shippers Council NSC, the Economic Regulator of the seaports to commence legal actions against multinational shipping companies over unlawful imposition of charges and fees arbitrarily.
in order to serve as deterrent to others.Speaking at a Round table briefing at the International Maritime Press Centre, MARAN Secretariat Apapa Lagos on Thursday, Aniebonam who was reacting to a question on container deposit enlightened that the offence on illegal charges attracts both civil and criminal charges. He explained that the struggle to recover the illegal charges is civil while the offence of charging illegally is criminal.The founder of NAGAFF was of the opinion that until executives of the shipping companies begin to see government in action with regard to descending heavily on those who run foul of the law, the shipping companies wouldn’t stop taking law into their hands.
He also argued that these shipping companies should also carry the council along whenever they plan to introduce such arbitrary charges, failing which the freight forwarders would take their destinies in their own hands.
On the modus operandi of the operatives of the Federal Operations Unit of Customs zone A, Lagos, who lay ambush around Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports, the founder said that the only way out of this quagmire was for the importers and their agent to make honest declaration of their consignment to forestall delays and embarrassment.