By Peace Obi
With the upsurge in the exportation of wood and the subsequent violation of export procedure by the exporters leading to the seizure of several containers, the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) has organised a sensitisation programme for exporters, agents and the general public to educate them on the standard procedure in the exportation of wood in the country.
Speaking during the programme tagged “Sensitisation of Exporters on Wood Exportation”, the Customs Area Controller (CAC), Apapa Area Command, Comptroller Willie Egbudin noted that the programme became necessary given the shift of focus by exporters from the exportation of oil products to wood exportation.
Attributing the swerve to the fall in crude oil price, the CAC said that the Federal Government had as part of its commitment towards diversifying the economy, opened up wood exportation as another window for economic survival for the country and her citizens.
“The Federal Government is trying to encourage exporters, because in the past, people depended only on the exportation of oil products. But now, that they have known that the price of oil has fallen, so there is a need to look elsewhere. The Federal Government has opened this window for exporters, especially those who are exporting wood. And the message is that if exporters want to export wood, it must be processed either wholly or partially”, he said.
Blaming the seizure made by the NCS on the inability of the exporters to follow the standard rule in exporting wood, he noted that the procedure was simple if understood.
“We are not against anyone one exporting wood but it must be done within the ambit of the law. So, I feel it is necessary for them to understand what it entails, what they should do and the need for them to do the right thing.”, Egbudin clarified.
He advised the exporters and their agents to put up their application and initiate the processes involved ahead of the exportation time, even as he pointed out that failure to do so would lead to mounting pressure on themselves and on the system.
His words: “Sit down. Check the processes and see where you are getting it wrong and amend it. We cannot bend the rule or the procedure because it is difficult for you. It is a procedure designed by the FG and it has to be done that way. If you have any challenges in the course of time, contact DC export office for clarification and your questions will be answered. We want you to come forward, tell us your challenges”.
Taking journalists on a tour at the port terminal where processed containers of processed wood which the exporter has been issued the Clean Certificate of Inspection among other documents by the NCS confirming the quality of the consignment, Egbudin said, “This is a clear example of processed wood. This is what is allowed by the Federal Government. If you are taking anything out of this country, it must be processed. And when this is done, you are also creating employment for the teeming population as well”. “To get this done, the exporter sends his application to the Federal Ministry of Environment, stating what he wants to do. Thereafter, if granted, the approval is sent to the Ministry of Finance, who sends to the Custom headquarters which in turn sends to the respective commands. You can see the difference between the unprocessed and the processed wood. The wood here are roughly sawn and that is what the FG said should not be exported.
“Some people out of ignorance or desperation decide that they should be exporting this and we are up to the task. So, once they bring this, we make seizure and of course prosecute those that brought them in.
Appreciating the NCS for the sensitisation programme, the Secretary General, Product Exporters of Nigeria Association, Mr. Odiase Joseph noted that export generally had been a thriving business in Nigeria. And that the major challenge had been on export of timber.
“Over the years, there has been a misconception of what the policy says on what type of wood is allowed for exportation. And the meeting is for them to clarify, sensitise the exporters, their agents, and the general public that wood products itself is not prohibited, it is raw timber, unprocessed timber that is not allowed for exportation. It has gone a long way in educating our people.
Commenting on the expected effect of the programme on its members, Joseph said that he was confident that exportation of processed wood and semi-processed wood would thrive in Nigeria.