The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has saved the nation about N27 billion through scanning and verification of importation documents, which it introduced as part of the cargo clearance process.
While the huge savings were made by the NCS, it was, however, gathered that the federal government would have lost almost same amount through poor verification of import documents by service providers between January and November this year.
Deputy Comptroller of Customs and Public Relations Officer (PRO), NCS Headquarters, Abuja, Adewale Adeniyi, disclosed this in a programme on Channels Television and monitored by THISDAY.
According to Adeniyi, the substitution of Risk Assessment Report (RAR) with the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) will also boost the security situation of the country.
“We had to check some of their documents for verification and we were able to generate a further sum of N27 billion, just from January to November. So, if it has just been only the service providers that had done those verification alone, that would have been money lost down the drain.
"The federal government took the decision on PAAR for many good reasons. So the issue is, if you are looking at a very stronger means of protecting our borders, if you are looking at trade facilitation, then you must look at other channels beyond RAR,” he said.
He explained that the task given the NCS by government is to ensure that the country run the PAAR and get better benefits.
According to him, the PAAR has an added advantage of reducing the time of conducting procedural process.
He noted that before, the importers have to commute from Apapa to Victoria Island and back to Apapa or Tin Can Island with transportation challenge in Lagos.
“Under the PAAR system, which the Customs is driving, we are capturing data with electronic systems. We also have in it the added advantage of having a more vibrant platform for collaboration with other relevant agencies. Not only with the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), to ensure higher quality assurance, but also with other agencies that are involved in import business, including the Plant Quarantine, NAFDAC and so on,” he said.
Adeniyi said the NCS has a platform through which it can share intelligence with other stakeholders, stressing that the ultimate goal is the evolution of a functional single window system.
The NCS image maker explained that with the PAAR, the system is able to make relevant decisions even before the goods arrive, especially in terms of whether “we are going to open it up and count or simply put it up for scanning.”
He maintained that the primary source of information would remain that as provided by the importers, saying what would be needed would be merely to adopt established procedures to verify such information and issue PAAR between 24 or 48 hours.
He added that the beauty of PAAR is that it actually relies on the honest and voluntary compliance of the importers’ declaration. He, however, maintained that the process might sometimes go beyond one day in some cases because there might be lots of issues that may come into play in the process of arriving at vital decisions.
He pointed out that while the PAAR is a human process, the aim of the platform is to create a system that would be “corruption- proof.” Hence, NCS has painstakingly reduced human contacts, in favour of automation.
He said this is part of the reason why the Comptroller General of Customs started with an improvement of the personnel’s welfare packages and salaries, before coming this far.
According to the PRO, PAAR has been so transparently designed that it will enable the importers to know everything the Customs officers should know, so as to completely eliminate the chances of any ambiguity or extortions and described the Customs Ruling Centre as a “trade portal” through which NCS is trying to put information across to every stakeholder, as everyone could freely go to www.nigeriatrade.org.ng a 24/7 online platform, and enjoy the simplicity of its design.