Avoid Being ‘Father Christmas’ When Making Cargo Declarations, Aniebonam Urges Freight Forwarders

By Sylvanus OBASI, Lagos

The Founder of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has advised freight forwarders not to fall victims of being father when making cargo declarations to customs.

Aniebonam made this call in a press statement he issued recently where he lamented that “It is unfortunately disheartening that most freight forwarders have continued to inflict upon their principals avoidable additional duty payment as a result of non-disclosure of the actual content of laden containers in their transaction for customs purposes”.

According to the NAGAFF Founder, “The trade policy regime of Nigeria under destination inspection makes it so simple and straightforward the need for self assessment and declaration for customs purposes.

“In otherwords, freight forwarders are at liberty, as a declarant, to make an honest declaration for customs purposes. When this happens there shall not be a room for customs to issue additional duty with penalty thereto. The avoidable penalty is merely being a father Christmas to the federal government of Nigeria.

“An intelligent freight forwarding practitioner should have noted that the customs may not look the other way over unprofessional conduct on trade goods. In other words, you are simply creating an unsolicited opportunity for the customs to rake into the federation account more money based on your unpatriotic act. This is because the additional penalty of 25% surcharge  for non-disclosure is quite a huge amount of money to the federation account.

“Not even now that the revenue target of the service is quite challenging, it means that the more you try to circumvent customs laws and regulations on traded goods other than prohibited items the more customs smiles home with more revenue. This is because whatever you try doing to the contrary definitely shall be revealed during customs examination”, he opined.

Speaking further, he maintained that “It is on record that before the emergence of this present administration, Mr. Emefiele, the former CBN governor, might have been a disaster to foreign trade facilitation in Nigeria. This man Emefiele, indeed, dabbled into physical policy trade goods instead of monetary policy which is his primary assignment, and consequently messed and distorted the entire trade economy of Nigeria.

“This is because he appeared to have limited knowledge about customs laws. He barred well over forty-one trade goods from having access to forex. Indeed it is a fact that every import and export transaction in Nigeria must have a form M duly registered in any commercial bank of choice.

“Here we are, Mr. Emefiele never realised that his sole action of executive rascality has no effect on customs laws as an act of national assembly. And so technically Emefiele banned these goods without knowing that customs laws have provisions to transact businesses with shippers whose import documents are incomplete.

“The multiplier effects of executive rascality of Mr. Emefiele became the tonic for traders to engage massively in the practice of non-disclosure for customs purposes. This they do knowing that customs shall issue additional duty on those 41 items thereafter examination

“Under reference it is a fact that the pre-arrival assessment report of the customs as a risk management tool is advisory. Indeed a declarant has the opportunity to make additional declaration in the single entry declaration form for customs purposes. This made nonsense of Mr. Emefiele executive rascality. He, however, succeeded in distorting customs efforts on trade modernisation and facilitation responsibility

“Anyway let’s forget the past since the president of Nigeria saw reason to reverse the order of Mr. Emefiele on those 41 items to enjoy forex incentives.  There is no need any more for traders to shy away from being compliant to import and export regulations

“This write-up seeks to draw the attention of practitioners and to advise that they  return to basic rules and practices of making genuine declaration for customs purposes. This has become necessary to assist the customs in their modernisation efforts and fast clearance of cargo out of customs control within 48hrs.

“And for those who refuse to key into due compliance to the rules, the consequences of non-disclosure may include seizure of such trades in accordance with the customs laws. Even though customs may look the other way discretionally, take note that 25% penalty of short collection is huge and avoidable expenditure on a trader

“Therefore, freight forwarders must stop being a father Christmas. Make honest declaration for customs purposes and protect the investment of your principal.

“On the part of the customs, NAGAFF would want to appeal for increased supervision of the operational officers to avoid the practice of issuance of frivolous demand notes to traders who come to transact businesses in the customs ports and borders

“May we therefore remark and without prejudice to the desire of the federal government to collect revenue for the use of providing public goods and services, let us remember that customs duty assessment and collection is a function of cargo throughput, rate of duty, cost and freight. Let all actions be transparent and predictable

“Therefore, revenue collection must not be a do or die affair. Going forward is to ensure due compliance to rules and facilitation of international trade. Compliance should be between the public and private operators. It is our belief the Comptroller General of Customs shall see the need to intervene on matters of high exchange rate and Customs question. The urgent need to deploy discretional powers and exercise his authority to appraise value on imported goods is most necessary due to avoidable inflationary situation in the Nigeria economy. Nigerians are definitely very hungry and worried.

“God bless everyone and we thank Mr. President for reversing the avoidable circumstances of the executive rascality of Mr. Emefiele. Let us now join hands with the federal government of Nigeria and the Nigeria customs service to make Nigeria great once again”. Aniebonam stated.

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