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DUTY PAYMENT: Freight Forwarders Knock House Committee On Customs Over First Bank Exemption 

Freight forwarders on Monday in Lagos, faulted the House of Representatives Committee on Customs, over failure to consult practitioners before dastardly taking  decision on the exemption of First Bank of Nigeria from non duty payment.

The freight forwarders operating from the nation’s  ports  at a town hall meeting to address the challenges affecting their operations , reiterated that the committee on customs should have  consult and inform the associations before taking any decision concerning the profession because according to them,the recent action by the lawmakers ready has rippling effect on cargo clearance.

The Group presence at the meeting include: Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents ( ANLCA) National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders ( NAGAFF), National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents ( NCMDLCA),  Nigeria Association of Freight Forwarders  and Consolidators ( NAFFAC) and Association of Registered Freight Forwarders ( AREFFN)  organise the town hall meeting with the theme ” Way Forward on Challenges Militating  against Cargo Clearance”, frowned at government attitudes for failing to consult practitioners which in turn has dire consequences on the trading community on cargo clearance from the ports.

Speaking on behalf of the other association’s presidents to declare the event open, Acting National President of ANLCA,  Dr Farinto Kayode Collins decried the recent decision by the House of Representatives Committee on Customs to suspend First Bank PLC from customs duty collections  without any notice to freight forwarders , which according to him, is causing pains and hardship for freight agents.

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Farinto disclosed that freight agents  cannot clear their consignments from the ports due to the development .

The ANLCA Chieftain further recalled that a similar issue occurred last year with Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) on duty payment without due consultation from the government adding that freight agents  or shippers will not be held responsible for demurrage charges this time around.

He also lamented the issue of the freight forwarders not taking their profession seriously ,when it comes to  discussions to  draw government and other regulators attention to their plight ,even as he cautioned the practitioners to always attend   stakeholders deliberations concerning their operations , in furtherance to be equipped and be informed about activities surrounding international trade and customs related matter.

He said the town hall meeting will come in three phases, customs operations, shipping companies operations and the terminal operators operations, saying the day’s delibrations   centre on challenges  face by freight forwarders in customs operations.

“We later find out it was not the customs that yanked first bank out of the system rather it was house committee on customs. People know they have there oversight function but there was supposed to be a time frame before that action should have been taken by them.

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“The house committee didn’t give us the required information about this development and we cannot continue like this when banks will be yanked like that without proper information from them.

“This issue happened last year with GTB and there was no information from them to us. Going further by extension if this issue happened again we are going to challenges the lawmakers and take a stand.

On customs operations, Farinto urged the freight forwarders to discuss with open minds by pointing out the challenges they are facing with customs, adding that lack of information from customs, especially on banned items before it is yanked off the importation prohibited has created great concerns to the freight forwarders.

Farinto however called  on the practitioners to be compliance with customs clearance processes and procedures in a more refined modus operandi.

He , further echoed that compliance is a two way thing thus, freight forwarders should first of all follow due process while engaging personnel of customs.

The acting President urged the practitioners from the various associations  to have robust discussions on the Vin Valuation Policy, PAAR,  among other discussion with customs management..

On his part , the pioneer National President of ANLCA, Dr Rafiu Ladipo  and Board of Trustees chairman NCMDLCA, appreciated all the presidents of Associations for putting up the Town Hall meeting, saying it will bring back the good old days , where Customs and other agencies of government  cannot take decisions without consulting them.

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Ladipo said frieght forwarders can make good names if they do it right. He said everybody must be ready to comply, even as he  wished the freight forwarders fruitful deliberations.

Meanwhile, at  a closed door session where operators  and the customs brainstormed  on the challenges and the way forward.

Two Customs Area Controllers from Apapa and Tin Can Island Commands were represented by their Deputy Comptrollers. For Apapa,  DC Enforcement , DC F.O. Alagbo , while DC D. Gaura  represented the Customs Controller, Tin Can Island Port.

They further assured the freight agents of cordial working relationship and fruitful engagement as part of measures to facilitate trade.

In attendance, were :ANLCA, Acting National President, Dr Kayode Farinto, President of NAGAFF,  Tochukwu Esizi,   Tony Onyike represented NAFFAC,  Chief Ifeanyi Anakweze for NCMDLCA and Bala Lawan Daura , President AREFFN.

Executives, Chieftains of the  Freight Forwarding Associations, officials from the Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), executives of  Association of Maritime Truck Owners ( AMATO)  and others were present at the town hall meeting.



Representatives of the five registered associations by CRFFN during the town hall meeting on Monday in Lagos

By Roland Ekama