Francis Ezem

The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents ANLCA has said that Customs brokers in the country lose over N10billion annually for ignorantly clearing some imported consignments which turn out to be declared fake and substandard and seized by government agencies including the Standards Organisation of Nigeria SON.

It was also gathered that so many others are currently languishing in various detention camps and prison yards for unknowingly accepting to clear some imported goods, which turn out to be contraband, including arms and ammunitions.

National President of ANLCA, Hon. IJU Tony Nwabunike, who spoke at a one-day stakeholders’ sensitisation forum with the theme:  “Facilitating Trade through SON’s Automated Services”, which held in Lagos, noted that Customs brokerage agents and freight forwarders have had to loose huge sums of money because some persons imported substandard goods and contracted them to clear the questionable consignments.

The forum was organised by SON in collaboration with the Nigerian Shippers Council, ANLCA and the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders NAGAFF to provide a platform to rob minds on the need to checkmate the influx of fake and substandard goods into the country, which has negative implications for the Nigerian nation and its citizens.

Nwabunike noted that the importers only give the Customs brokerage agents the bill of lading, which most of the time does not reflect the exact thing in the container, adding the only time the agents gets to know what is actually in the container is when it is opened for examination, after which the agent has committed huge funds, which are never refunded if the consignment is seized.

He however disclosed that as part of efforts to mitigate such losses by members, the association has introduced a sensitisation programme where experts and university teachers are brought in to enlighten the importers on the requirements for certain categories of goods and on the need to adopt international best practice in their trade documentations.

He said: “Over time, custom brokers have fallen prey to fraudulent importers, who bring in substandard imports and most of the time, fail to disclose to us the actual content or degree of compliance with extant rules such as SON Conformity Assessment Programmes, SONCAP. The influx of these illicit products in addition to being injurious to our national economy, also spells doom for our people

“The task is daunting but we are not relenting because customs brokers have suffered an estimated cumulative losses amounting to over N200billion per annum over years for undertaking to clear goods discovered to be substandard.

This is just a mild analogy of the costly price we professionals are paying to achieve standards and build an enduring economy that will be beneficial to all”.

Meanwhile, the Director General of SON, Osita Aboloma, who delivered a welcome address, charged importers to desist from importing substandard products capable of maiming and killing Nigerians.

Represented by the Director, Inspector and Compliance Directorate, ICD, Engr. Obiora Manafa, Aboloma insisted that the agency was not happy destroying people’s imported products because they did not comply with the required standards, adding that there was need for importers to insist on required standards before the products leave country of origin.

He argued that it is easier to prevent imported substandard products at the port than chasing after such products in markets and warehouses.

“We are tired of destroying fake and substandard goods. It costs us money; it takes our time, which could be deployed to other beneficial ventures. SON as an agency of the Federal Government is not out to punish importers, we are only interested in safeguarding lives and properties of Nigerians. Importers should also endeavour to apply for their SONCAP certificate before the arrival of their products in Nigeria” he said.

Aboloma also charged practitioners association including ANLCA and NAGAFF to continue to talk to their importers on the need to comply with trade rules to ensure the safety of lives and property.

Recall that the organisation has within this year alone, carried out destruction of fake and substandard products imported into the country. In January, it destroyed fake mobile phones while substandard gas cylinders worth hundreds of millions were also destroyed in February, 2020.