By Eugene Nweke
First, the pertinent question on the lips on Nigerians is this, from the year 1990 to date, at what time within this period have our markets not been flooded or littered with substandard goods?.
There is nothing wrong with resorting to engage the advocacy supports of the stakeholders to gain the attention and sympathy of the authorities, but it is also wise and justifiable to do so in the context of the prevalent realities in the industry and our dear nation.
It is important to state categorically that times have changed and our industry no longer thrives in the darkness of hidden trade information.
To this extend, it should be generally appreciative of the fact, that , well meaning stakeholders now understand the workings and issue surrounding the imported products regulatory constraints in our country better.
This understanding is to the effect that, it is a known and common setting, when an industry standard practice cum regulatory control agency tilts more and fails to strike a balance between its core agency’s regulatory obligations and secondary obligation of revenue interests, it is obvious that one of the obligation will be greatly achieved at the detriment of the other obligations.
May I urge , some of the regulatory agencies to desist from thinking itself in the realm of the Nigeria Customs and its enabling objectives to the nation.
For emphasis sake, the Nigeria Customs core obligation is revenue generation and to curb activities around it, that limits it from achieving bumper revenue generation, hence, its anti smuggling operations. Regulatory agencies should emphasis more on their core regulatory objectives and deemphasize the revenue aspect, which keeps them in dilemma with the NASS who are only concerned about revenue mostly.
Ever wondered, how come the shipping lines deliver only standard trade goods to other neighboring west Africa countries ports, but deliver anything ladened in a container and schedule for the Nigeria ports, why deliberately hiding under the shipping clause or caveat: “Said To Contain” – STC ?
Do you think it is because of the compliance nature of the trading public?
The answer is Hake NO!!! .
Rather, their government understand that the trading public priorities and motives in international business are profits driven, and the tendencies and chances of breaching the nation trade laws in other to maximize profits are likely and obvious, as such, the government has need to evolve and deploy a prompt check and balance mechanism, underlying it’s trade goal, between trading for national and corporate growth and trading for individual growth only.
From my interactions and findings with some professional colleagues within the sub-region, it is clear that their countries’ trade & shipping policy is explicit and flexible. The performing word in their trade policy is “..ensure adherence to all trade laws, which guarantee trade facilitation and quick turn around time…”.
So issues recirculating around the influx of substandard products into the country is not as rampant as making news headlines as it is in Nigeria.
Findings show that goods coming into their countries ports must meet the national quality standards specifications, failing to do so, the shipping lines will be penalized and in most instances, the shipping lines are made to ship back the goods to the origin port , doing so at its own expenses.
Furthermore, the government set forth a national import monitoring department, whose duty is to go round the market overt in search of imported SUBSTANDARD GOODS, products discovered in this process are traced back to the importer, linking it to shipping lines and importing nation for prompt government actions.
With them, It is a national shipping law and must be respected and adhered to by any shipping lines wishing to do business with their country. And so it is no bending the rules for the trading public cum shipping lines.
Equally, may I also ask: have you also noticed that goods which are meant for or named as Nigeria Port as its final destinations, but under a trans-shipment window, find their way to any of the ports within the west Africa countries ( as trans-shipment ports) are adequately monitored at the point of container stripping operations, just to ensure that not even a single product carelessly enter the street , talk less of the market overt.
It is on record, that the NESREA at inception achieved such fits, yet hell didn’t fall.
Our products quality standards must remain our national standard, with no compromising for any consideration ( which was an initial error made by one of the formal Director General of the agency in 1997, while trying not to offend the trading public).
Consequently, such compromise is now playing back, an evidence both in policy application and in practice.
The SON knew too well that, it’s greatest challenge stems from its lack of regulatory control over the shipping lines, which it needed corporately to checkmate the trading public. Pointing at the Single Window, I can bet you that even with the evolution of a single window, the influx of substandard products will persist excerpt we tackle the factor promoting the shipping of substandard products from the root, it will only but amount to building a castle in a shifting sand or a vicious circle .
The Nigeria shipping environment is one that accommodates foreign shipping lines, of which many collude, fronting politicians by proxy ( even electing them into their board and appointing some as administrative stooges) and further more join and register with floated an association purely for their business interests ( which is to advance their cutting corners), especially those that fall short of international practices cum compromises.
Nigeria seems a haven for foreign shipping lines to change its international posture and turn a national Shipping line through the instrument of a registered national association.
You may begin to appreciate the ongoing , high degree of extortion in the shipping industry, however, suffice to state that shipping industry is not the import of this modest reaction, so needless to dwell on that.
So many Nigerians had expected that, the SON other than faulting the Customs NICIS 2 as the cause of its non achieving desired quality regulatory objectives, should partner with the Customs and fashion out a Container Security Initiative – CSI as obtain in other importing climes.
For instance in America, Britain, South Africa, and many other countries who also import from Asia countries, especially China, do so under strict adherence to specified nations quality, yet for compliance on safety and security purposes, they signed up a CSI known as the ADVANCE MANIFEST RULE aka AUTOMATED MANIFEST SYSTEM ( AMS) , with the China/Shipping line.
Under the CSI , Six rules are involved to drive the security initiative
One of such rules state that, ” Carrier will have to transmit cargo declaration to the nation’s custom Authority at least 24 hour prior to commencement of loading operations at the port of loading”.
After documentary check by Customs and other regulatory agencies, the Customs will notify the carrier of those shipment that are permitted to enter the nations respective port of discharge.
The rule ensures that, the cargo description and analysis must be precise, it does not accept general description such as “FAK” or “Machinery”
Under the rule, Carrier who load without submitting documentation 24 hours prior to loading will face fines and risk delays, including denial of permission to unload.
Please, google and read up these rules for yourself for further information. However, other container security initiative programs abound, depending on the one such country finds suitable for its peculiarities.
My emphasis being that, the SON’s non participation in physical examination or as christened “non presence” in the port has little or nothing to do with the influx of the substandard goods into the ports.
The SON should be BOLD to confront their fearful monsters ( shipping lines and their political cohorts) for the sake of the national security and safety, and stop playing to the gallery.
This is my personal but strong position on this all important issues centering on the influx of substandard products into our country..
We must resolve to do something entirely different from the usual.
This position may hurt in some quarters but may I reiterate here that this modest is without prejudice. But for the good of Nigerian consuming public.
Please treat as a proactive professional advice built on integrity to foster capacity.
Fwdr Eugene Nweke Rff Ksm.
– Concerned consuming public and an industry stakeholder.