By Stephen Ubanna
Barely two weeks after Tony Nwabunike, President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, took the National Executive Committee members, NECOM, to Abuja, to see Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Federal Government and Gbemisola Saraki, a Senator and minister of state, Transportation, overseeing the nation’s maritime sector, the Association appear to have bounced back to life to protect the interest of Agents.
At a recent meeting with Mustapha, the SGF, who incidentally , was a one –time Managing Director, of Nigerian Inland Water Authority, NIWA, the Association had complained about the numerous security agencies at the seaports, the terminal operators and the shipping Companies, which activities hampers the ease of doing business, at the ports.
Between last year and now, the two agencies which importers and their agents had been very critical about for finding their way back to the seaports were the Standard Organisation of Nigeria, SO and National Agency For Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC, insisting they must be withdrawn from the seaport to facilitate the Clearing process as they could do their job from their office and still achieve results.
The ANLCA president was said to have pleaded the SGF, to use his position streamline the number of agencies at the seaports to reduce the cost of clearing goods at the nation’s seaports, which is considered higher than what obtains in Benin Republic, Togo , Ghana and the ports the Central African country of Cameron. Appealing to the SGF, to use his vantage position to reach out to the ministers supervising NAFDAAC, son and other agencies at the port whose personnel are involved the physical examination of cargoes to come up with standard procedures for members to key into to avoid killing their businesses.
Ossy boloma, the Director General, SON,may have known that there is trouble ahad for the agency if ALCA, the country’s foremost Association for agents which was set up by an Act of Parliament in 1954, should molise its members to Campaign against the withdrawal of its personnel from the ports.
It was therefore not very surprisisng that when the Association leadership requested to the t agency Director General , he did not hesitate in giving approval for the ANLCA officials to come over in order to isten to their Complaints and reach a meeting point to facilitate the ese of doing business at the ports.
Nwabunike, according to sources, did not hesitate I opening up to the SON helmsman who gave him a listening ear. An appreciative ANLCA President had told Maritime Journalists who had laid ambush over the meeting them to know the decisions reached by the parties may have gladdened the heart of agents when he disclosed what they had discussed .
‘’We discussed Operational matters and the way forward based on existing mutual relationship between the parties’’, he had said. The most instructive was the agreement that was said to have been reached between the Association and the was that the later has agreed to sensitise Importers with their agents that could be imported and the standard required to avoidfalling into the waiting hands of officials at the port if suspected to be substandard. Of quality. To avoid running into trouble with its officials.
Maritime watchers believe that if the leadership of ANLCA, had been alive to their duties in the past by reaching out to these agencies, particular, SON, many importers, whose cargoes had been Confiscated for low quality could not have had such problems.
An elated Nwabunike noted that the visit to the SON Director General have kept abreast of the requirements for the importation of goods , particularticular, regulated products into the country, noting that the problem which importer have had with SON officials at the port has become a thing of the past .
Aboloma, the SON, boss who is not someone to pushed around by Importers or their agents to for force him to do the unexpected was said to have made it clear to Nwabunike and his Association members that the agency Commitment in checking the influx of substandard goods into the country will continue the importers are ready to turn a new leaf.
Investigation by The Value News shows that most of the substandard goods that had been imported into the country over the years, particular, Cables and bulbs, had been shipped from the Asian country of China. A SON official who spoke to the Magazine exonerated the Chinese manufacturers from blame , noting that it is the order placed by the importers, who are mostly Ibos, that they produce and supply to them to sell in the Nigeria market.
Perhaps, to ensure that Importers know the dos and don’ts, in the Importation of cargoes into the country to avoid falling into the waiting hands of the agency officials and subsequently lose their goods to to government, to facilitate the issuance the agency, according to Aboloma, the Director General, has upgraded its Platform to facilitate the issuance of its Conformity Assessment Programme, SONCAP, to mporters.
Maritime watchers, would want Aboloma,the SON helmsman to sanitise the agency in order to remove the bad eggs. As they also produce sub-standard goods. Even within the country , some manufacturing firms are worse than the chines firms who connive with Nigerian Importers, who could produce the SONCap to manufacture form them. Many of these Cmpanies are located in hideouts in different parts Lagos state. This why SON officials may have to go all out for them instead of concentrating all their efforts in waiting for imported foreign substandard goods at the seaport, airport or land border areas. To knock out substandard goods from the Nigerian market. On the agency
The leadership of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAFF, over the years , had thrown their weight . The Association had seen the agency proposed introduction of the Product Authentication Mark, PAM, to ensure that both locally and foreign manufactured goods imported into the country conforms to Standards that will go a long way to safeguard lives and properties of people in the country. The Association was said to have taken it upon itself to sensitise members in order to carry the message to their importers to avoid importation of substandard goods as they stand the risk of losing it to government.