As criticisms trail the granting of waivers to three companies owned by northerners to resume their trans-border trading while all others remain banned by the President Muhammadu administration, the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) at the weekend lamented that cargoes on transit and mobile assets like trucks laden with goods worth over N130 billion were trapped at the borders since August 18, 2019.
The association in a statement by its president, Hon Iju Tony Nwabunike disclosed that the goods belonged to private businesses. He disclosed that most of the goods with perishable timelines have either been destroyed due to expiry periods or damaged beyond redemption as a result of exposure to unfavorable elements.
He said: “ANLCA findings also confirm vandalism, theft and arson on some of the trucks and goods they carry, therefore causing great losses to many struggling business men and women.
“Of note is the over 10,000 direct and indirect jobs that have been lost so far due to this policy, which in our view , should have been approached and implemented differently.” Also, Nwabunike said that the association also interacted with ranking members of the Senate over allegations of National Assembly members’ interference in cargo clearing.
According to him, after closed door interactions, it was mutually agreed between ANLCA and members of the Senate Committee on Customs and Excise that it negates due process for lawmakers to be involved in cargo clearing.
“Chairman of the committee, Senator Francis Alimikhena gave his words that all cargo clearance hitherto stalled with shipping companies due to the committee’s activities and correspondence will be allowed to be processed in line with extant regulations.
“Senator Francis Alimikhena concurred with ANLCA that: whereas the oversight functions of the lawmakers cannot be wished away on the executive arm of government and any of its agents, the day to day operation of duty collection, cargo examination, issuance of demand notices (when necessary) and effecting seizures for due infractions rest with the Nigeria Customs Service,” he said.
Nwabunike said that due to the need for the Nigerian business community to maximize the benefits of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), ANLCA has received government assurances for consideration to reopen the land borders.
According to him, ANLCA had reminded the Federal Government that AfCFTA regime which hopes to take effect from January 2021 with secretariat in Accra Ghana, will place Nigerian businesses people at disadvantage if the nation’s land borders remained closed to trade.
“The association further reminded the government that Nigeria will be shut out of trade with proximate countries of Benin Republic, Cameroun, Chad and Niger Republic in West and Central African countries,” he said, adding that “the association therefore secured the assurances of the Federal Government on the need to effect gradual reopening of the closed borders with particular focus on rules of origin to prevent abuses of incentives like the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS).
“This in our view will help in discouraging smuggling activities through all approved routes. “In line with the ECOWAS protocol, we hope all neighbouring countries will henceforth deliver transit goods to the Nigeria customs service,” he said.