Stakeholders brainstorm on ease of clearing charitable items; set up SOP committee.

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Stakeholders brainstorm on ease of clearing charitable items; set up SOP committee.

Tayo Oladipupo

Stakeholders have unanimously agreed to have a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)  for easier clearance of charitable items from the nation’s seaports in order to avoid conflicts often encountered with government agencies and owners of such cargoes.

The stakeholders which include members of the upper and lower chambers of the national assembly operators and representatives of government agencies in maritime industry and other relevant  stakeholders in shipping community, stressed the need for a seamless and automated clearing  procedures of such consignments meant for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), orphanages and less privileged persons.

The sensitisation program held on Thursday in Lagos, was put together by the Nigerian Shippers Council and the office of the Deputy  President of the Senate, with the theme: Programme of event for stakeholders consultation on the ease of shipping and clearing of charitable items.

Speaking at the event, Deputy President of Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege said that the shipping industry, had had perennial cabotage problems, especially at the upstream point; especially as it affects charitable shipped items.

The Deputy Senate President was represented by  his Senior Adviser on NGO/CSO Affairs ,Princess Modupe Ozolua.

According to him, the industry has been fraught with problems of classifying items for the purposes of waivers, rebates, exemptions and other privileges.

He added that as a result, there was often the confusion at the point of clearing of charitable items and other categories, especially the commercial ones, as they all, sometimes, go through the same processes.

He stated that, “The result is that often, charitable items get entangled in high demurrage charges sometimes caused by delays in clearing due to denial of import duty waivers by relevant government ministries/agencies, late application of necessary documents by non-profit organizations, among others. These often cause undue loss of items and financial losses.

“It also extends to the denial of, sometimes life-saving relief materials to places they are needed, particularly disease-ravaged areas and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) settlements. Given the present IDP crisis Nigeria now faces, the material and humanitarian losses can only be imagined.

“Charitable items are gifts donated by individuals, organizations or governments to the less privileged, usually through not-for-profit organizations, faith organizations or individuals.

“The items in turn come in different forms such as clothing, foodstuffs, medications, and assets and services.

Also speaking at the event, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi said it was necessary to create awareness on the importance of Aid materials to the national economy and the need to improve on the processes and procedures for the shipping and clearance of such materials at the Nigerian ports.

Amaechi who was represented at the event by Director, Inland Container Services, Mr. Victor Ewaje, reiterated that one of the major mandates of the Nigerian Shippers Council was to protect cargo interest in all transportation chain pointing out that the council was to ensure the cost effective handling of cargo from origin to destination.

He added that Aid items fall within the cargoes that need protection.

He said, “We are equally aware that these Aid items enjoy waivers, however, experience has revealed that the process of obtaining duty waiver on these items takes time and such delay do translate to accumulated demurrage charges on these aid materials.

“This sensitization seminar will afford stakeholders the opportunity to brainstorm on how to improve the processes and procedures of shipping and clearing imported aid materials into Nigeria.

“Major highlights of the discussion will centre on issues of timely approval for duty waivers, timely clearance inclusive of Customs formalities identification of accredited Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) as well as effective cost of Shipping and clearance.”

On his part Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council ,Barrister Hassan Bello described the view of National Assembly as contributing to economic boost.

He said charitable goods must embrace high level of special protocol to facilitate speedy clearance for such cargoes from the seaports.

Bello noted that the technical session should be conveyed to the direct beneficiaries of discourse adding that stakeholders consultation is important to the clearance of charitable cargoes.

Present at the event include; representatives of NPA, Customs, CRFFN SCUML, INGO, NAFDAC, SON, among others.

Highpoint of the event was  the setting up of  committee of SOP including representatives from all the operators, agencies and individual organisation  to harmonise all the submissions at the deliberation.

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