By Eromosele Abiodun
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) have agreed to join forces to close loopholes in the Temporary Importation Permit (TIP) system that importers often exploit to avoid levies due to the government.
The declaration was made when the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh visited the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) in Abuja.
At the meeting, Jamoh said the temporary import permit issue was one of the biggest challenges faced by the maritime sector, stressing that it has denied the federal government huge revenue.
Jamoh stated: “The biggest issue we have has to do with temporary importation. What we observed is that people capitalise on the good gesture of government policies.
“Those that are benefiting from this temporary importation bring in their own ship and after one year they will take it back to their country and import back with a different name. They do it constantly and this is to the disadvantage of our Nigerian shipowners.”
He said Cabotage trade, which falls within the core functions of NIMASA, was suffering as a result of the abuse of the temporary import permit, and, “At the end of the day, it is indigenous shipowners that bear the brunt.”
The DG said the Merchant Shipping Act provided that vessels used in importation should be registered with the Nigeria Ship Registry, but in most cases, the importers did not.
He called for greater synergy between NIMASA and NCS as well as all agencies in the maritime sector, to address pertinent issues and improve the sector.
Jamoh, said it was in pursuit of such cooperation that a regular meeting of heads of maritime agencies was recently initiated. The meeting debuted on July 7 in Lagos at the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC). It had in attendance Executive Secretary of NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello; Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman; Managing Director, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr. George Moghalu; and Rector, Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, Commodore Emmanuel Effedua (rtd).
Jamoh, said the essence of the meeting was to identify and speedily tackle challenges faced by operators in the sector without the impediments of official bureaucracy. He invited the NCS Comptroller-General to join the heads of maritime agencies meeting.
“After the meeting, we decided to incorporate the Freight Forwarders’ Regulators to be on board,” Jamoh stated.
Responding, Ali pledged the commitment of the service to pooling resources with NIMASA to address the TIP issue and other problems in the sector.
He said there was need for both agencies to design a common framework for tackling the issues.
Ali said such approach would ensure that if Customs registered a ship and gave it a TIP, NIMASA would also have records of that registration on its own platform.
“We should have more identity of the ship beyond the name, as name can be erased and another name used. We must now collectively get some identity of the ship that goes beyond name that should be registered in our records and yours so that if there is recycling of the ship, using that platform, we should be able to identify the ship and be able to apply the law as it is,” he added.