By Eromosele Abiodun

Importers and manufacturers of chemical substances in the country have accused the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) of abuse of End User Certificate (EUC), leading to their loss of over N200 million monthly to demurrage on imported chemicals for paint and some pharmaceutical products.

An EUC is a document used in international transfers, including sales of arms, weapons and ammunition, to certify that the buyer is the final recipient of the materials, and is not planning on transferring the materials to another party.

THISDAY investigation revealed that some customs officers demand EUC on products that are not on the list of chemicals that requires the certificate issued by the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA).

For instance, THISDAY gathered that the NCS demands EUC for Titanium Dioxide, which is not on the list of chemicals that requires the certificate.

Also, some importers told THISDAY that they have not been able to clear Glycerine, a chemical used by the oil and gas companies for drilling operations and for making cough syrup, cosmetics, paints and coatings.

Investigation has also revealed that several containers have been trapped at the ports in Lagos as a result of the customs refusal to generate Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) for importers to clear their goods.

An importer who does not want his name mentioned for fear of persecution told THISDAY that prior to obtaining Form M for importation of these chemicals, they were not informed that the products require end user certificate.

“Nobody told us that Glycerine, a non-explosive chemical has been included upon obtaining Form M. It was when we got to the bank to make payment for our goods to be cleared that we were told the customs has refused to generate PAAR because the chemical now requires end user certificate,” he said.

A member of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), who is majorly affected by this development told THISDAY that they have complained to MAN, which has promised to look into the matter.

In a position paper sent to MAN and obtained by THISDAY, the group stated, “We wish to state some negative impact of the requirement of end user certificate on further regulation of our importation of chemical raw materials. We acknowledge the wisdom and motive behind the requirement as a mode of combating especially terrorism that seeks to destabilise peaceful habitation of our country.

“However, our business has been injured by the extension of the frontiers of this requirement in the following manners: Some chemical raw materials that are known not to be related to arms or explosives production are now under this requirement. Such materials include Glycerine and Caustic Soda. Chemical raw materials that were not under this requirement are continually being pushed into the category without adequate information to the importers. The result is that an importer becomes aware when his products arrives the ports and clearing agent is asked to produce the certificate. Since this certification takes between two to three months to be issued, demurrage bills gets beyond any profitability threshold.”

They added, “Customs officials presently exploit this requirement as they request the certificate for all chemical imports. Some clearing agents and importers have fallen prey to such practices by giving out various sums of money to be allowed to go with their goods. Some importers who have resisted such ploys are made to suffer higher demurrage bills due to the unnecessary delay tactics employed by the custom officials.”

When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the NCS, Mr. Joseph Attah, told THISDAY that the EUC does not emanate from the NCS.

When asked to comment on the alleged abuse of the requirement by customs officials, he said importers should insist on clearance from the office of the NSA before making any payments.