The freight forwarding business is in turmoil following the decision of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to revoke not less than 1,968 licenses issued to freight forwarders or licensed customs agents continue to generate ripples in maritime industry.
The Customs High Command decision followed the allege use of the licenses to perpetrate various offenses. Some of the freight forwarders or licensed customs agents were also said to have handed over their licenses to importers who allegedly used it to import prohibited items into the country.
The violations reportedly perpetrated by the offenders include repeated false declaration of goods by shippers, importation of prohibited goods such as the case of the 661 pump action rifles manifested as steel doors but seized by the Customs recently.
Others are evasion of import duty payment on goods, repeated cases of wrong declarations, concealment, under invoicing and under valuation on imports.
As part of the measures aimed at bringing sanity to the system, NCS is expected to make public the list of the valid licenses it has issued and are still operational and those suspended and revoked.
Though it is yet to do so as at press time, the move is already creating apprehension and anxiety in the hearts of freight forwarders and licensed customs agents who something to hide as a result of the nature of the business they do in the nation’s international land borders, airports and seaports.
According to the provisions of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) which is presently before the legislature for a review, NCS issues licenses to agents otherwise called freight forwarders, clearing agents or customs brokers which act as intermediaries between it and importers and collect duty from the latter on goods for payment to it.
The issuance of the licenses is predicated on the fulfilment of specific conditions. These include payment of a prescribed fee, proof of ownership of a well-established and well equipped office stock with the relevant research materials on Customs Tariff and Trade and located in an accessible area among others.