Importers Suspicious of Double Taxation in NESREA’s Clearance Permit

  • Permit is not to replace SON’s functions, says NESREA

The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) recently introduced a Clearance Permit that some industry people/importers believe would cost them more money, as they believe it duplicates a function of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON). However, the Director General of NESREA, Lawrence Anukam says their permit is strictly for importers of used electronic products and some categories of chemicals that have been banned internationally. SON, according to him, does not charge for this function and that its concern is with importation of new products. Bennett Oghifo reports

There has been suspicion that importers will pay more taxes since the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) introduced its Clearance Permit.

But NESREA has said the concerns of the industry people were unnecessary, because their permit was not intended to replace or duplicate SON’s functions.

Some industry watchers, however, alleged that the NESREA Permit duplicates SON’s permit and that NESREA introduced it specifically to raise money at the expense of importers. It is seen as another way to tax consumers and manufacturers. “The NESREA procedure only requires the importers to send the agency’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) along with application to get a permit. This allows for serious loopholes in the entire system. The MSDS given by the importer could have been doctored which would invariably increase the level of unwholesome products in circulation across the country.

“Furthermore, there is no value addition to what SON and NAFDAC have already tested with their accredited agents and accredited laboratories in Nigeria. The bottom line is to collect money and create a safe haven for unscrupulous importers to falsify the import documentation by dealing it as NESREA imported goods.” To them, NESREA should focus on the huge volume of e-waste that is flooding the Nigerian market.

They alleged that the NESREA online advert told importers that: “The beautiful thing about NESREA clearance permit is that the same certificate is used to obtain Form M unlike the SON certification where you are required to get PC (product certificate) first and later get SONCAP after getting Form M. “Again, no certificate validation required for NESREA. Go straight; use your permit to apply for Form M and subsequently PAAR. Take full advantage of NESREA now and reduce costs associated with SON.”

Industry watchers said, “It is so regrettable especially at a time when the federal government is focusing more attention on non-oil exports and export promotion drive for certain agencies to be thinking of flooding the country with imports. What is actually wrong with some agencies that are chasing shadows instead of living up to their billings?”

NESREA, they said “has no facilities, expertise or skills to conduct due diligence certification and grant permit to prospective importers. It therefore appears to be so fraudulent for NESREA to carry out what it has not been created to do or has no capacity to execute. The ministry or minister in charge of the agency should therefore call NESREA and those at its helm of affairs to order before the federal government becomes so highly embarrassed by the latest initiative, an industrialist stated.

According to Mrs. Musirat Balogun, a member of the Manufacturers Association of Nigerian (MAN), government agencies are exploiting businesses through multiple taxations, duplication of roles and over-regulation.

She wondered why NESREA introduced its Clearance Permit when SON was fully in charge in an official capacity and was handling the processes effectively.

Another member, Mr. Famikade Famiroti said, “We gathered that to clear items in the country, importers are required by law to have for every consignment of regulated products, a SON Product Certificate (PC) and SONCAP Certificate (SC) issued by SON approved inspection agencies like Intertek, SGS and Contecna. These independent accredited firms (IAFs) are time-tested international technical partners who have the expertise and technical capacities and competencies to handle the processes.

“The SON PC is used to open the Form M while the SC is for raising the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) for clearance of the imported items. Again, both the PC/SC are processed and obtained by exporters in the country of supply of goods following laid down compliance guidelines.”

All products imported into Nigeria are regulated under the SONCAP programme administered by SON which also issues Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme (MANCAP) certificate for all regulated exports.

According to these importers, this was an attempt to take over one major statutory mandate of yet another federal agency, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON). The development, according to them, is nothing but a clear confrontation between NESREA and SON, two sister-agencies of the federal government which are expected to work harmoniously in the spirit of inter-agency co-operation. “For NESREA requesting importers to apply for the agency’s permit negates the spirit of Federal Government’s ease of doing business mantra.”

Regardless, the Director General of NESREA, Dr. Lawrence Anukam said his agency was not interested in replacing or duplicating some functions of SON, because NESREA’s permit is for used electronic products and some categories of chemicals, adding that they had good work relationship with SON and NAFDAC.

Anukam said NESREA’s permit was intended to ensure responsible importation of the items that they regulate, because of their impact on the environment. “NESREA’s permit is for used electronics and some banned chemicals; not all types of chemicals. These are banned under an international convention which Nigeria is a signatory to. The permit is symbolic, as it is designed to make these importers accountable. SON does not charge money for this permit. The permit is to ensure that importers do the right thing and to discourage smuggling. SON regulates new products mainly.”

He admits, “There is little overlap of functions, no doubt, but not a replacement of SON’s permit.”

Watchers of the economy believe that Nigeria’s economic outlook would improve with the government’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) collaborating. This, they said is what obtains in highly performing economies, because the government agencies there know their briefs or mandate and keep to them without any attempt to interfere or encroach on other bodies statutory responsibilities. “By so doing, businesses, industries and commercial activities experience smooth and steady growth.”