The Customs Area Comptroller of Apapa Area Command, Charles Epowei Edike has identified the lack of transparency in the documentation of cargoes as a major challenge working against the success of Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR).
The Area Comptroller who revealed this at the Command’s first meeting with Stakeholders this year emphasised the need for importers, freight forwarders and all other stakeholders to fully comply with the provisions of the policy noting that some of the hiccups experienced with PAAR stem from ambiguous declarations made by stakeholders who attempt to evade the payment of actual duty.
He also explained that where there is contrast between the details of shipment in PAAR and the findings during physical examination, Customs officers would suspect foul play and query such shipments thus lengthening the time and cost of clearing the goods. The CAC maurged stakeholders to always declare the true worth and type/ class of their cargoes in specific terms so as not rouse doubts.
“Let your documentation be transparent. If you are carrying televisions, don’t call it electronics. Give appropriate specific descriptions. PAAR is on auto pilot for compliant traders.
It is the final document for those who are transparent.” In response however, stakeholders who applauded the Service for the success recorded with PAAR so far also asked Customs to tackle the problem of outrageous bills issued by PAAR and all other teething problems associated with the policy so that it can truly become the final document for cargo clearing.
They also appealed for the provision of an enquiry desk where the questions and complaints of stakeholders would be sufficiently addressed.
On the effect of PAAR in the sector, Mr. Lexzy Nwangwu, the Managing Director Lexzy Peters Nigeria Limited and a renowned freight forwarding professional with thirty five year experience said that, “PAAR is a working policy that has turned out to be the magic wand for the smooth operation of the business of freight forwarding.”
“In spite of the high rate of imports of massive cargoes, within two days, containers in the port go out. Honestly, when PAAR started, if you told a Freight Forwarder that he could begin and finishthe clearing of a container in three days, he will tell you to go and sleep that it is not possible and that it cannot work in Nigeria. But today, it is working.
It is working now and I hope Customs will still improve on that.” It would be recalled that PAAR was introduced in December 2013 by Nigeria Customs Service to reduce time and cost of clearing cargo.
The policy allows freight forwarders to electronically provide details of shipments in the “Form ‘M’ and pay duty before the arrival of cargo. However, upon arrival, the goods are physically examined by Customs to ensure that the electronic declaration on Form ‘M’ is the actual content on ground. Where satisfied, the cargo is allowed to exit the ports without delays..