05 October 2014, Lagos – The agents had been divided in their acceptance of PAAR which is an import document required for clearing of goods at the ports. It was introduced in December last year following the end of the contract of the Destination Inspection Agents (DIAs). The DIAs had introduced Risk Assessment Report (RAR) for the period of their contract for goods inspection at the ports. The difference between PAAR and RAR is not much as the two contain information about the importer, his cargo and the value. But the problem being complained about PAAR is that it takes a lot of time before the agent can be issued with the document. This is unlike RAR, as freight forwarders would say.
Freight forwarders who are representatives of importers say that in some cases, it takes close to two weeks or more before PAAR is issued to the applicant who may have paid his duties through the bank. PAAR provides that the importer can go ahead to pay his duties even before the examination of the consignment. But he is subjected to scrutiny as to the truth of his claims concerning the duty rate he paid in respect of his consignment.
Freight Forwarders and PAAR
For some freight forwarders, the old system of RAR should return. But this is unfortunate because those responsible for that system have left for good. To agents, under RAR, the issue of delay is absent. Those in favour of RAR definitely hate PAAR as they complain about the attendant delay. But the President of ANLCA, Prince Olayiwora Shittu, makes it clear that he has no problem as an individual with PAAR. To Shittu, the problem of PAAR at the ports is “ man-made distortion created by stakeholders”.
Shittu had accused the former service providers of handing over a corrupt data to the Customs, which slowed the needed progress in the implementation of DI by the Customs. That was Shittu’s position few months after PAAR was introduced. Shittu has also accused many importers and their agents of being non-compliant to the new system, adding that without being compliant to the requirements of PAAR, the importer would continue to experience some difficulties. He had also accused serving customs officers of promoting the failure of the new system in order to enjoy “business as usual”. Many customs officers want ‘delay and delay’ so that importers would be forced to settle them to fast-track their documents, it is being alleged.
But about 10 months after, many freight forwarders have remained bitter about PAAR. At the ANLCA office launch in Lagos, the agents could not hide their feelings about the issue as they murmured. It was this situation that may have drawn the attention of Shittu and the CG to comment on the PAAR situation in the ports. Shittu while praising the customs boss however cried out on the need for Abdullahi to intervene by addressing the problem once and for all. In his opening address at the inauguration ceremony, he called on the CG to set up a committee made up members of his association to investigate the complaints against PAAR by freight forwarders. Shittu, a successful and well respected freight forwarder told the customs boss, “I will fail if I don’t tell you about the yearnings of our people. You have tried and your name will be in the history books for life. You may be in Abuja, but don’t know everything that is happening on the field; our people are crying. I know we are here to celebrate, but please, help us address the issue of PAAR”
He added: “PAAR is the best ever clearing document established by any Customs authority all over the world, and this was also confirmed in South Korea. We decided to embrace PAAR because it is a facilitator and World Customs brokers, who we are members, recognised PAAR as a sample for other countries.
“But, some Customs officers and agents may be stumbling blocks and I believe it is not your fault that you brought something good to the country”.
Position of Customs Boss on PAAR
Concerned about the complaints from the agents, Abdullahi explained that some of the challenges being faced on PAAR were normal. He simply described the problems as teething, adding that the beginning of every exercise is usually characterised by challenges. He complained that the former service providers “abandoned some unfinished Risk Assessment Reports (RARs) documents to the Service. According to him, “PAAR is Nigeria’s creation; it is Customs creation and it is just nine months. As human beings you should know that every beginning is difficult and we must expect teething problems from the beginning. Don’t forget that people who left did not want to leave so they will leave behind a lot of problems, which will cause problems between me and you. So I think it is better we sit down and look at it intelligently and bring about solution to that problem harmoniously.”
Apparently reading the mind of some of the agents who have been praying for the return of the former service providers, the customs boss said this cannot be, affirming that the only alternative is to find a lasting solution to any challenge being experienced.
He said:“Let me assure you that even if I leave the Comptroller-General position, no other agency will come back and collect duty on behalf of the NCS, so it is better while we are perfecting whatever is the problem, let us look at it and solve it between ourselves.”
How Importers, Agents Can Enjoy PAAR regime, by Customs Controller
Apparently worried about the complaints from some agents on PAAR, Customs Area Controller, Tin Can Island Port, Mr Jibrin Zakare, said that ‘honesty and transparency’ were needed on the part of importers for them to enjoy the PAAR regime. Zakare who described PAAR as a ‘progressive and simplified import document’ , made it clear that those who wish to enjoy the system must keep their hands clean. They must shun any fraudulent act, he told THISDAY in Lagos. According to him , some of the agents who have been so critical about PAAR should do self -soul searching about the correctness of the information given concerning the goods arriving the ports. He called on importers to shun “under-declaration, concealment, under-valuation”, to be able to obtain PAAR as fast as others.
Zakare explained that once an importer falsifies his trade information, it will affect the smooth processing for the release of such consignments. He added that it is one thing for the importer to make his declaration which is contained in PAAR, and another thing for the Customs to cross-check the information given in the document. False and fraudulent information, he said, will affect early issuance of PAAR, adding that freight forwarders whose importers make genuine declaration cannot complain of having difficulty in the issuance of PAAR and subsequent clearing of their goods. He accused some importers of deliberately giving wrong information in order to cheat the federal government by not paying the correct duties. He said the Customs had during examination of goods discovered some of the anomalies by importers and their agents, adding that when this happens, the Customs takes time to correct the wrong by debiting the importer through the issuance of Debit Notes (DNs).
He said: “Our job is to serve Nigerian importers well. The Comptroller General, Alhaji Inde Dikko Abdullahi is interested in trade facilitation and every command is under his directive to promote this ideal. What we discovered is that some importers who fail to make genuine declarations in their imports are usually the ones complaining about delay in issuance of PAAR. We have taken time to educate many importers and even agents on how PAAR can be issued to them without delay. They need to be honest by avoiding under-declaration, concealment and under-valuation. If we discover these fraudulent practices, we have to take action for the interest of the federal government”.
– Francis Ugwoke, This Day