The Nigeria Customs Service has lamented the very low supply chain integrity in Nigeria, arising from dishonest declarations and fraudulent practices by some traders, which accounts for why the service sometimes resorts to physical examination of cargo with the attendant delays.

Comptroller General of the service Col. Hameed Ali rtd, who was represented by the Deputy Comptroller in charge of Enforcement and Compliance Unit of the Tin Can Island Command of the service, Dera Nnadi, spoke at a one-day round table session on service delivery at Nigeria’s seaports organised in Lagos by the TPI Integrity Maritime Group.

While reacting to a comment by a stakeholder who complained about delays associated with manual cargo examination at the nation’s seaports, noted that the issue of cargo examination is a function of risk management, which he also said depends on what one feeds into the systems that determines what comes out (garbage in garbage out).

According to him, it is not about a particular clearing agent or Customs officer, but that of documentations or declarations made by any importer of his agent, which automatically triggers a certain risk level generated by the system independent of the customs officer or the agent or importer involved.

He disclosed that due to the high level of dishonest declarations, more often than not, the risk level triggers red, which suggests that physical examination should be carried out on the consignment, saying that the day the importers or their agents deliberately decide to be more honest and compliant to trade rules, the number of consignments that go through the red channel will be minimised.

He said: “Unfortunately, the supply chain integrity in this part of the world is very poor, so much so that the risk level will always trigger red and we do not have apologies because it is garbage in garbage out. The day our declarations are honest towards superior integrity, we will tend towards the green lane.

“There are the green, blue and red lanes but at the airport in Lagos, almost every lane is red. Our supply chain integrity in Nigeria is very poor and as long as people do not make honest declarations, we will continue to examine cargo”.

On the issue of deployment of scanners for cargo examination, the Comptroller General admitted that the service desires to have scanners to ease the number of times officers carry out physical examinations, but insisted that the scanners would eliminate the fraud associated with cargo examinations.

He however cited an instance of when a consignment is scanned and it is discovered that the density in the consignment is at variance with that on the documentation, the officers would have to subject the consignment to another examination, which amounts to double job, which benefits no one.

The Customs-boss urged the stakeholders to advise traders to be compliant to trade rules, which would make the service adopt the Economic Authorised Procedure EAP, which implies that if for instance a trader makes a declaration in China and on coming to Nigeria, the declaration is same and that happens over time, the service would release such trader’s consignments each time they arrive based on its high integrity level.

“You remember the smuggling of N2.8bn worth of cocaine at Tin Can Port about two years ago by a manufacturing company in Nigeria, which has been in operation since 45 years. Its containers arrived this year and they have been at the ports for three weeks, we are not happy about it but there is nothing we can do since we cannot trust such company again, we have to do our work”, he said emphatically.

On the boarding of ships by operatives of the various security agencies, he noted that the standard practice globally is that the Port Health operatives board the ship first to ascertain that the health of the people in the ship would not negatively affect the health of those coming to inspect the vessel after which the flag is raised and other operatives board jointly.

While commenting on the issue of gifts, the CG noted that the matter has also been addressed by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council PEBEC, headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, insisting that globally, the Captain of the ship is only allowed to offer such operatives only food not gifts.

Recall that Mr. Vivek of the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network MACN, which is made up of over 120 companies, controlling over 75 per cent of global container volumes had while speaking earlier at the event, noted that many firms in Nigeria do not comply with Standard Operating Procedures.