Tin-can: Baba–Musa Silent Revolution

By Stephen Ubanna

Hopes brightens  as Mohammed Abdullahi Baba-Musa,   Comptroller of Tin-can Island Command, devises strategies  on improved trade facilitation and promotion of international trade with a view to improving the monthly revenue generation of the Command.

Trade facilitation, analysts stressed  could only be achieved  in an atmosphere of  honest declaration, which will  ultimately allow for a seamless flow  of documentation in the system. Past and present  Administrations had given Executive order for 24 hours  ports operation as part of efforts to promote trade facilitation.

As a prelude  this, Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, had insisted that  Shipping Companies must submit  advance d cargo manifest  to Customs  Commands seven days  before the arrival of the vessels at the nation’s seaports.

Mohammed.A. Baba-Musa: Devises Strategies on Improved Trade Facilitation

Baba-Musa appears to have queued up into the Ali’s directive on trade facilitation as  he has listed as one his policy thrusts : installation of time release Study ,TRS” facility.   The TRS facility  , a source said  is expected to  showcase the timely movement of importers declaration with a view  to identifying  points of delay at the port.

The  TRS, according to sources is part of  the efforts of the Tin-can Island Comptroller to enhance trade facilitation and flow of international trade at the port.  The Comptroller, the source said is optimistic that the installation of the TRS facility would go a long way to improve the monthly revenue collection of the Command.  The Controller is aiming to surpass the N29.45 billion  generated by the Command  in the month of January 2018 under Barsha Yusuf , his predecessor, now Comptroller PAAR, at Customs Headquarters, Abuja.

Many believe that  if the Tin-can Island Comptroller could keep to his promise of the installation of TRS , it would go a long way in removing  problems associated with the 24- hour clearance  procedure which are currently being experienced by importers with their agent at the seaports.

The Shippers Association of Lagos state in its study confirmed that  the cargo dwell time was too long because  Nigerian ports  are operating an abnormal situation. The Association had said that  Sirilanka ,  which handles about  six million  Containerized cargoes  annually, had more plants and equipments that enable its terminals service vessels in less than two hours.

Industry stakeholders believe  that dwell time  at the nation’s seaports was the highest when compared  with other ports in the West African sub-region. At Cotonou port, Republic of Benin  for instance, the average cargo dwell time  was  said to be between 12 and 14 days, Durban port in South Africa, four days while in Mombassa port, Kenya,  cargo has a maximum of five to seven days.

Moreso, the study by the Nigeria Shippers  Council, NSC, shows that  that the country’s seaports  had the lowest  free Containerized  cargo storage period in the region, as importers get  three storage free days before being charged for storage by terminal operators. The NSC study shows that  in Cotonou port, importers get seven days free storage   but in Ghana, another West African country, it is 11 days free storage period before being charged by terminal operators.

The study further shows that  importers  get  five demurrage  free periods in Nigeria seaport, 10 days in the  Republic of Benin port of Cotonou and Cameroun each while  in Ghana, the importer gets seven days demurrage free period. This  may have been the reason why the  why stakeholders argue that the ”cost of  doing business in Nigeria  was too high, coupled with  low ranking of the country on Global logistics  Index and Ease of doing business”.

But the Comptroller may have found an answer to the high cost of doing business at Tin can Island port  with the  installation of the TRS. Indeed, he  had  left no one in doubt that he was going to match his words with action as he had set  the necessary machinery in motion for its actualization soon.

For now, he was said to have ordered the profiling of  transactions  to ensure  that due diligence  is followed. iT is not surprising why one of the Assistant Comptrollers, Valuation, in one of the terminals , was said to have  verbally queried  a releasing officer  for do so without  referring it to her officer for proper profiling of the cargo in accordance with the Comptroller’s directive.

This is in addition to  practical trade facilitation  aimed at ensuring that   full compliant declarations are treated expeditiously.

Perhaps, one area the Comptroller  had won accolade since he assumed duties was in the area of ”Dispute Resolution”. There had been conflict of interest between   importers with their agents and Customs Operatives, mostly Valuation officers .  The conflict had been either on wrong classification or valuation of the Consignment. Sometimes the case had been dragged to the Comptroller  who had used his position to resolve the conflict.

Barsha, the former Comptroller of the Command  was said to have established a Conflict Resolution which sit twice  a week, thus leaving may  cases unresolved.  the situation was so bad that he was confronted with one ne of such  complaints , forcing him to give  the ”Comptroller’s Order to the Committee” .

instead of sitting  twice a week,  Baba-Musa, the Tin-can Island Comptroller was said to have ordered the Committee  either on valuation, Classification or on any other  mater to sit immediately  a petition was sent to it by an aggrieved importer or agent.

Agents who spoke to the Magazine gave kudos to the Comptroller  for taking the bold initiative to  read the riot actto the Dispute Resolution   Committee to sit whenever  there is a case before them to handle instead of postponing it till another date.

The Comptroller, a source told the Magazine do  not want  agent who has problem with an officer on account of misunderstanding the  Classification or Valuation of the  Consignment to bring such matters to his office, as he has more important administrative issues to deal with daily.   The Comptroller’s order may have put the Committee members on the high jump as they can afford to fail  or give room to exploit their inability to resolve disputes arising from trade transactions to bring complaints  to him. Uche Ejesieme, a Deputy Superintendent of Customs and the Command Image maker , Baba -Musa, the Command  Area Comptroller as a” very serious person  who is determined to uplift the standard of doing business at the port”.

Many believe that what  the Comptroller has done so far  was not far from his promise to” build on the legacies of his predecessor in all its ramifications”. he had made it clear to all those that care to listen that that he cannot achieve  his lofty objective for the Command without the support of stakeholders. It is not surprising why he had called for the ” support of all stakeholders in the task ahead”.

There is no gain saying the fact that Baba- Musa had to Tin-can Island Command at a time  when the hours of inspection and physical examination  of cargoes as well as paper works   of imported items had been reduced  to ease business operations at the ports, .

Ali, the Comptroller General disclosed that  the Service had attained 75 percent automation level . Tin-can Island  Command, for now had an edge over  other Commands  in the implementation and training of officers on the NCIS 2 , which is the higher version of NCIS 1, expected to eliminate corruption at the ports.

Industry analysts  see it as a major tool  for facilitation of legitimate trade  and Baba- Musa had made it clear that he is all for it.  Indeed, his policies are tilted toward ”trade facilitation, to remove bureaucracies  and bottlenecks in the process of doing business at the  Nigeria port.  He was said to have retain the   signages at designated centers at the seaport created by  the  former Comptroller.  It  is basically a place , Ejesieme, the Command Image maker said where stakeholders visit  whenever they anticipate any challenge in their clearing process at the port  on how to get over it. Suffice it to say that  the Command Enforcement Unit run 24 hours  daily in accordance to the Executive order of May, 2017, to attend to official issues.

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