Stakeholders Back Shippers’ Council’s Efforts to Achieve Fraud-free Port Activities

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Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt

Stakeholders have declared their support for efforts of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) to instill discipline in the clearance of goods at the nation’s ports.

In a 12-point communique issued at the end of a one-day enlightenment seminar on ‘Ethics, Integrity in International Trade and the Need for Shippers to Comply with Customs Clearance Procedures at the Seaports/Boarders’, organised by the NSC in Port Harcourt, stakeholders resolved to cooperate with the council in ensuring compliance with clearance procedures and ethical standards in international trade.

The communique, which was jointly signed by the Chairman of the occasion, Sir Sam Epiah, and the South-south Zonal Coordinator of NSC, Mr. Ekpenyong Eke, also called on stakeholders to always comply with the guidelines and procedures set by regulatory authorities as well as the need to carry out their international trade in a sincere manner to avoid falling victim to the long arm of the law.

The stakeholders also pointed out the non-adherence to ethical standards in international trade discredit stakeholders both locally and internationally, and called for cooperation with government to sanitise the ports to make them efficient and competitive in line with global best practices.

The communiqué added: “Stakeholders should always have the right ethical attitudes in international trade to avoid high prices of goods and diversion of business to neighbouring countries, thereby causing loss of revenue generation for the country,” adding that the right security gadgets should be put in place in the ports by relevant government agencies to enhance ease of doing business in the ports.”

Stakeholders were also urged to be honest in the declaration of their goods to avoid unnecessary delays which could amount to high cost of doing business, and also endeavour to comply with all procedures towards achieving 48 hours of cargo clearance in the ports.

Worried by the poor state of facilities and patronage of the Eastern Ports, the stakeholders called on the NSC to interface with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to dredge the channels and also provide adequate security in the Eastern Ports waterways to encourage more patronage.

Earlier, in his welcome address, the South-south Zonal Coordinator of NSC, Ekpenyong Eke, lamented that “some unscrupulous and unpatriotic elements within the shipping community” who imported contraband cargo (arms and ammunition) into the country had raised a lot of suspicion and mistrust of shippers by the authorities.

He said the events forced government to impose 100 per cent inspection policy on all containerised cargo coming into the country.

“This automatically means delay in cargo clearance, possible damage to cargo in the process of inspection, pilfering of cargo and collection of bribes by unpatriotic inspection officials, among others,” he lamented.

He however said: “When cargo is sincerely declared, documentation comprehensively made and all procedures adhered to, government will trust in the ‘shipper’ and international trade will become a lot easier and less cumbersome which will ultimately impact positively on our nation’s GDP.”

Also, in a paper titled, ‘Ethics and Integrity in Foreign Trade: The Role of Nigerian Shippers’ Council as Port Economic Regulator in Creating Effective Regulatory Regime at the Nigerian Ports’, the Director, Regulatory Services of NSC, Mrs. Ezidinma Ifeora, listed various unethical practices to include falsification of shipping documents, passing of substandard goods as standard, tariff avoidance through under-valuation and over-valuation of imported and exported goods, foreign exchange malpractices, and concealment of the nature and type of cargo imported or exported, among others.

“Why involve in sharp practices when you know that when you are caught you will start from the scratch?” she queried shippers.