Importers Under Close Watch At Shenzhi Port, China

By Stephen Ubanna

Worried at the rate at which importers rush to Peoples Republic  of China to import goods into the country  and the problems that are encountered by Nigeria Customs Service, NCS,  officers  at the seaports and land the land border stations with such  imports over cases of  under-declaration and Concealment may have forced, Hameed Ali , a retired Colonel and  Comptroller General  to take bull by the the bull by the horn to checkmate  the importers activities  decisively .

His insistence that officers  must have an idea of the transactions going on between importers and their Chinese suppliers before the Consignment finally gets to Nigeria ports  for clearing and delivery to the Importer’s warehouse  was  said to have encouraged the Customs Comptroller General, to approve the China trip for Aminu Dahiru, an Assistant Comptroller General in -charge of NCS, Zone A,  Lagos, Comptrollers Muhammed Uba Garba, Baba Abdullahi Musa, of Seme and Tin-can Island respectively including Adama Ptiskum, Comptroller, Customs Information Communication Technology, ICT.The premier port, Apapa and Tincan Island ports, alone handles over 70 percent of the imported cargoes into the country while  Seme is is the busiest international border route in the West African sub-region and African, in general.

The Magazine learnt that the team headed by Dahiru, the Assistant Comptroller General, had left the country about two weeks ago and had been traversing the ports and border areas in China to see things for themselves and be in a better position to deal with importers and  ensure trade facilitation in the country. The the Dahiru led team were said to have been taken to Shenzhi  Customs , where over   8,000 Contairised  cargoes, going into different countries in the world, including Nigeria and  other West Afirican countries  were processed daily  and given clearance to  be loaded into ocean going  vessels awaiting to carry  them  at the port. The trip, acccording to a Customs source, was an  eye opener to the senior Customs on the trip.

 

Aminu Dhiri , led Team in China

The Shenzhi Customs operational base, according to a Nigerian based importer in China  is about 52 km from Hongkong, another Asian  country, which was formerly part of China. it is not surprising why Nigerian importers rush to the two Asian countries with ease to place ordesr for supplies of goods to them without putting into consideration the country’s fiscal policy measures.

It would be recalled that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, had banned the importation of 41 items into the country, including tooth paste, on the orders of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.  The ban  made the items ineligible for foreign exchange allocation . This is because of the speed at which importers who were given approval to buy foreign exchange at he official exchange rate abuse the privilege to place order for unnecessary goods which found their way to Apapa, Tincan-Island ports  and Onne ports, in particular, thus wasting  the country’s scarce foreign exchange earnings. The situation was so bad that  most of the Containers that were said to have been shipped from China and India, in particular , were found  to contain different  items as against what was declared in the importer’s  Bill of Lading.

 

There is no gain saying the fact that China is the biggest  destination for importers  all over the world, including European and United States importers. Indeed, different  types of cargoes ranging from   personal effects to  industrial machinery are said to be manufactured in the Asian industrial giant  because of cheap Labour and which were sold cheaply to Customers.

Take for instance, furniture, Children toys,  fashion items, Electronic gadgets,  fancy ceiling pendants,  Household Utensils, Building materials, Security and Tracking gadgets and Laptops/Pads/Phones.  ”These may have  made the country a den  of goods for importers”, a Customs officer remarked.  It was not surprising why  Ali, the Customs  Comptroller General , has decided to  keep a close tap on the goods  imported in into the country  from China to ensure that they comply with the government fiscal policy measures by sending his officers to he country.

Many believe that that the Nigeria Customs  officers on the trip could tap enough knowledge from the vast repository  of products  that are available in the country to the benefit of the nation.  Financial analysts  averred that since the Chinese  Renminia, RMB, popular Yen,  had been included  by the World Bank/International Monetary Fund, IMF,  among  the basket  of reserve Currencies that have Special Drawing Rights, SDR,  the country has continued  to see it  as a reflection of the importance  of its Currency in the world  trading and global financial market.  The fallout  was the expanding of  its trade  and the substantial increase  in the international use  and trading  of the RMB,  as  the  country is increasingly entering into  Currency Swap arrangement with other countries in the world, including Nigeria.

Given Ali’s desire to checkmate the activities of Nigerians importing goods from china by sending his officers to the country, Maritime analysts expect him to still send other senior officers to India, another Asia Country, that had been identified  going by Customs records  where Pharmaceuticals Companies   connive with their Nigeria Customers to ship Tramadol and other dangerous drugs, Concealed with other items into the country. They believe that Nigeria Customs  officers interaction with their supposed Indian  Counterparts, should they be allowed to  go there, as  was the case in Shenzhi Customs in China, it would go a long to curb the excesses of importers with their Clearing agents and their Customs Collaborators in Nigeria.

While Tincan Island port, had remained a haven over the years for importers who Contravene the government fiscal policy measures  and still take delivery of their goods with the active Connivance of Customs personnel, a    senior Customs  officer who spoke to the Magazine    disclosed  that the rot in the port  would be minimised  considerably as Abdullahi  Musa, the Command Comptroller, who was on the recent trip  to China,  would not  hesitate to put into practice what he had  learnt from his counterparts in Shenzhi Customs, China, to put the officers on their toes, particular, the Command Enforcement and Customs Intelligence  Unit, CIU, officers to do the right thing and plug all the loopholes and tricks employed  by importers to  shortchange the government.

For importers who also think they could  import their goods which Contravene the  government fiscal policy measures through Cotonou port and any  other port in the West African  sub-region and still smuggle them into the country , through  approved and unapproved routes, had to watch it as the Chine Shenzhi , ChinaCustoms officials appear to  have exposed their tricks to their Nigerian Counterparts.

A close source at the NCS Zone A office, Lagos,  informed the Magazine that given the experience acquired by the officers on the China trip, they were enthusiastic to return to Nigeria to implement what they have learned from their Chinese counterparts to tighten up security at the seaports and land border stations  and which is expected to go a long way to improve the revenue collection of the Service.  The return of the Customs team to China   may have put fears on importers who place order  for made in China goods as Customs personnel now scrutinise to the last pin, all imports from the country. The same attention were said to have been  extended to imports from India and Turkey, an European nation. The Customs officials at the ports and land border stations have to take special interest on imports  from, China, India  and Turkey, because of the 2019  general election  to forestall the shipment of dangerous drugs such as Tramadol or arms and ammunitions into the country.

 

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