From left: Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd.) makes a presentation to the Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh when the NIMASA DG paid a working visit to the Customs headquarters, Abuja, recently.

Barring any last minute change of mind, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA and the Nigeria Customs Service NCS have warned foreign shipping lines, who subject Federal Government’s Temporary Importation Permit TIP to gross abuse, saying that they will deal decisively with any liner caught in the act.

Introduced by the Federal Ministry of Finance, the TIP allows foreign ship owners to import their vessels into the country at just one per cent tariff for a period of one year. This compares to the 13 per cent duty paid by Nigerian ship owners. These liners have however subjected the policy to gross abuse, as they take the vessel back after one year, rename it and import it back to Nigeria at one per cent for another period of one year.

Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, who disclosed this in Abuja Wednesday, when he visited the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), said both agencies have resolved to join forces to block loopholes in the administration of the TIP under which some importers often defraud the government by evading payment of duty and levies. 

The DG also said that the TIP scheme remains one of the biggest challenges faced by the maritime sector, stressing that it has denied the Federal Government huge revenue, a development that necessitates an urgent review and also impose stiff sanctions on erring vessel importers.

 “The biggest issue we have had to deal with is the temporary importation permit. What we observed that people take undue advantage of government’s good gesture to abuse the policy.

“Those that are benefiting from this temporary importation bring in their own ships and after one year they take it back to their countries, rename them and import them back to Nigeria. They do this constantly and this is to the disadvantage of our Nigerian shipowners and so we will not allow that any longer”, the DG warned.

Jamoh said that the Coastal and Inland Shipping Cabotage trade, which falls within the core functions of NIMASA, was suffering as a result of the abuse of the TIP, adding that at the end of the day, the indigenous shipowners that bear the brunt.

The Director-General said the Merchant Shipping Act provided that vessels used in importation should be registered with the Nigeria Ship Registry, but in most cases, the importers did not.

He called for greater synergy between NIMASA, Customs, and indeed, all agencies in the maritime sector, to address pertinent issues and improve the sector.

It was gathered that it was in pursuit of such cooperation that a regular meeting of heads of maritime agencies was recently initiated. The meeting debuted on July 7 in Lagos at the Nigerian Shippers Council NSC. In attendance were the Executive Secretary /CEO, NSC, Hassan Bello; Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority NPA, Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman; Managing Director, National Inland Waterways Authority NIWA, Dr. George Moghalu; and Rector, Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, Commodore Emmanuel Effedua (rtd).

Jamoh said the essence of the meeting was to identify and speedily tackle challenges faced by operators in the sector without the impediments of official bureaucracy. He invited the NCS Comptroller-General to join the heads of maritime agencies meeting.

“After the meeting, we decided to incorporate the freight forwarders regulators to be on board, adding “The MD NPA and I have both agreed to extend the fellowship to you and you have the liberty to join us via zoom.”

Jamoh appreciated the efforts of the NCS under Ali to curb smuggling in the country and enhance revenue generation.

Meanwhile, Ali who spoke in a similar vein, said it is important for the NCS and NIMASA to develop a common platform for dealing with problems arising from the TIP.

He pledged the commitment of the service to pooling resources with NIMASA to address the TIP issue and other problems in the sector. He said there was need for both agencies to design a common framework for tackling the issues. 

Ali said such approach would ensure that if Customs registered a ship and gave it a TIP, NIMASA would also have records of that registration on its own platform.

According to him, “We should have more identity of the ship beyond the name, as name can be erased and another name used. We must now collectively get some identity of the ship that goes beyond name that should be registered in our records and yours so that if there is recycling of the ship, using that platform, we should be able to identify the ship and be able to apply the law as it is.

“We should create that synergy based on ICT. I request that your IT staff synergise with ours to develop a platform that will create that collaboration, such that everything we record or register will reflect in your own record.”

The CG, who commended the NIMASA DG for creating the CEOs’ forum initiative, saying it, would help to boost the sector. He also hinted that the service was in the process of launching two patrol boats that would go beyond the creeks, to enhance maritime security.

“We have mounted the necessary machine guns, one was involved in an accident but it has been repaired, and very soon we will launch them into operations. We will keep you posted as we intend to synergise with you to ensure the safety of our waterways.

 “It is my hope that we will strengthen the relationship and increase the synergy between us as maritime operators, and, most importantly, to ensure that not only the revenue aspect of it is improved, but also to secure our waters.

“The security of our people is more important than the revenue, because no matter how much you collect, if our people are not settled, or are not in peace, then the whole essence of the revenue is forfeited.

“So we will join hands with you and make sure that we work assiduously to ensure that our waterways are safe and profitable not only for the maritime stakeholders but also to Nigeria’s economy”, he also said.