Following the recent illegal inflow of arms and other contraband into the country, a new clearing procedure, Authorised Economic Operators (AEO), is being considered by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) to curb importation of prohibited goods. BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports
For decades, importation of dangerous and prohibited goods into the country has become an issue in the country.
It assumed another dimension when 13 containers of rockets and grenades falsely declared as building materials were shipped to the country through the Lagos Port in 2010.
It was learnt that before the cargoes arrived the Lagos ports, they had gone through transshipment in Greece, Spain and India.
However, till date, the original loading sea port has not been revealed.
Similarly, this year, between January and September, 2,671 riffles declared as wash hand basins, doors and building materials were illegally imported from Turkey into the country.
Miffed by the surge in illegal imports, Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) introduced the AEO as a mean to curtail importation of such dangerous cargoes.
The AEO is a programme introduced by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) in conjunction with National Customs Administration (NCA) to facilitate safe and secure import and export businesses across international borders.
Among the major requirements to qualify as an AEO operator include being an economic operator and part of the supply chain, having a record of compliance with customs legislation, taxation and rules.
Besides, such an operator or importer must have no record of serious criminal offences relating to economic activities.
In addition, an importer must have operated in the country for three years and above without any problem with the relevant authorities.
According to Comptroller General of NCS, Col. Hameed Ali, (rtd), “If Uganda, a very small country in terms of population and size, could embrace AEO, why should Nigeria, the giant of Africa, not boast of the platform?”
Ali said that the platform entitled the importer to a waiver of the rules on import supervision.
He explained that manufacturers and major importers with established track record of compliance with extant rules and payment of approved import duties would be the first line of beneficiaries.
The comptroller general, who was represented at a one-day sensitisation workshop in the Apapa Port Area Command of the service by the Deputy Comptroller General in charge of Strategic, Research and Planning, Patience Iferi, noted that the involvement of stakeholders in the AEO programme was important, adding that it would facilitate global trade as being carried out in other parts of the world.
According to Ali, getting involved in the programme will help stakeholders trade internationally rather than being limited to local trade.
He explained that AEO would further boost a safe framework of standards, secure and facilitate global trade as it has been done in other parts of the world.
Also, the Deputy Controller, L Mark, who is the AEO team leader for NCS Zone A, explained that the increase in volume of trade among countries and the changing trends in supply chain had made it imperative for customs administration to review its role in international trade, as well as sensitise the business community on the need for operations as AEO.
A concrete solution to tackle sharp practices among port users should be put in place by government in order to attract more businesses into the country.
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