Customs, SON stifling trade environment, says Shippers Association

     …Kicks against POF,

Rev. Jonathan Nicol, President of SALS

The Shippers Association of Lagos State (SALS) has condemned the operations of the Nigeria Customs Strike Force, saying it negates the name of the Nigeria Customs Service and gradually making it a military outfit in the guise of checkmating smuggling.

President of the SALS, Rev. Jonathan Nicol, also condemned the modus operandi of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), saying it had resorted to making the environment of trade very unfriendly.

He said: “Nigeria is not at war. Can anyone explain why our trade environment is littered with gun-carrying Government Agencies in a civilized society? The Nigerian Senate should save the lives and property of investors in our country.

“The duties of the Nigeria Customs Service is to collect revenue, and the public knows that Importers are doing just that. Is the Nigeria Customs Service and Standards Organisation of Nigeria constitutionally empowered to raise an army of destruction in the name of revenue collection? 

“We give so much as traders and get little or nothing from Government. It was the passion of simplifying trade that prompted Government to appoint an economic regulator for smooth and equitable pricing of doing business in Nigeria.”

Nicol said that the cost of doing business was constantly unstable as he kicked against the recent approval of the Practitioners Operating Fees (POF), saying “this has triggered another fever in the sector.”    

He noted that the collection of the POF amounted to double dues/ fees collection as all professional bodies collect annual operational fees paid by their members to their various associations.

He said: “For instance, Manufacturers Association's members pay annual dues to MAN; Medical Associations and others do same. #1000 × 1,000,000 containers is #1,000,000,000.00, payable by Shippers.  In other words, the recipients gets paid twice for 1 job. Contract clearing jobs. If this is the case, Government was not properly informed that the Freight Agents were paid fully for contract of clearing jobs.

“We cannot fathom where this is practised anywhere other than Nigeria.  Business will gradually fizzle out of the economic environment of our beloved country to other climes where trade tariffs are equitable.

“The same Government is making it practically impossible for the actualization of the National Transport Commission in Nigeria.  This is a dis-service to Nigerians.”

The SALS President also bemoaned the dilapidated port access roads at the Tin-Can Island area, the poor drainage system within and around the Ports, and the lack of sewage facility, in spite of taxes being collected.

Nicol, therefore, charged the government to address all issues affecting the port business as had been raised and require attention.

“Businesses are closing down every day. Multinationals are taking over our businesses in the guise of modern trends. How can an entire "economic matter" be treated with levity? 

“All economic issues ought to be treated with accelerated approach to sustain the confidence of honest investors.  Freight business is dying slowly with the song "killing me softly with massive corruption.”

He also expressed concern against the Port Landing Fees as an unnecessary additional cost of doing business.