By Eugene Nweke

1. Background:

The year 2024 promises a deliberate commitment and prompt intervention from the central government, this is with respect to the administrative policy thrust, aka “Renewed Hope Mantra”.

For the avoidance of doubt, the following administrative resolutions taken so far in the out gone year 2023, are clear pointers to its deliberate policy redirection, with a capacity to cause both imminent industry uproars ( distortions) with a likelihood to culminate into positive changes, in this regards:

a). The establishment of the Marine and Blue Economy – rated as a welcome giant stride/deliberate administrative policy by the stakeholders, however, as good as it is, a definitive professional regulatory council essence and effectiveness under the ministry is of grave concerns to the practitioners. For all intent and purposes, the regulatory council must be seen majorly as a professional regulatory organ and not just as a revenue generating organ.

b). The renewed commitment towards the evolution of a National Single Window (NSW) Project Implementation – this calls for straetgic professional regulatory repositioning, consultation and synergies.

c). In addition, the renewed commitment by the Nigeria Customs Service in relation to driving a professional customs services, and its determination towards strengthening its e-customs modernization efforts – this principally calls for self professional reevaluations, re-engineering and realignments on the part of the practitioners and its regulatory council.

d). The passage, gazette and implementation of the new customs laws – without dwelling on critical nomenclature changes as observed, the new laws saliently provides for a bold and ambitious compliance order, in the relation to tackling trade transactions (imports and export operational clearance) defaults and sanctions, with an intents for additional revenue drive. It imposes a professional integrity questions on the practitioners.

e). The ongoing Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) implementation regime – the need for the restructuring, evolution and integration of an effective multimodal transport operator concept in real terms, cannot be overemphasized, so as to guarantee prompt professional networking and participation, especially, with a deliberate focus on exportation, thus, a concluded paradigm shift from the usual, in line with the renewed hope mandate.

f). The signing of performance bond, between the President and Minister, in turn extended to between the Minister and heads of agencies and subsequently the head of agencies subtly extending same to their respective management teams via management retreats – all of these ( ‘a to f’), are clear indicators of business unusual, thus, the need to brace up to professional responsibilities, with a deliberate mindset to imbibing professional refrains, ending the culture of from playing to the gallery as usual.

2. Embracing Professional Necessity and Reality:

▪︎ Having highlighted on these envisaged industry policies that spark changes, which will tinkle down to or engender operational concerns, as professionals, it is a height time to resolve to being proactive and take firm stands towards resisting undue, unhealthy professional name callings and negative industry placements by many stakeholders. We must collectively and purposeful resist the common and quick referencing as a weaker link instead of stronger link in the international trade, safety and security supply chain.

▪︎It is therefore, worth noting in this new year professional message that, the best time for a purposeful professional unification devoid of association nomenclature divides is now. The real time to to buckle up and embrace professional realignment, strategic repositioning, taking back and regulatory effectiveness is now.

▪︎Indeed it must be clearly stated, that, on one hand, only those that has cargo interests comes into shipping industry, and going forward on the other hand, only those with cargo value addition should be allow to come into freight forwarding and logistics services, thus, rekindling professionalism.

▪︎ To this extend, it must be reemphasis here that, sound knowledge of cargo description, classification, dynamics of products natures, prompt applications of insurance and trades contracts & rules, judicious articulation of shipping documentation, shipping routes and time zones, etc is the beginning and bedrock of global trade compliance.

▪︎Furthermore, though before now, it could be said that, as an established international norm, there is no international uniformity in documentary procedures for Freight Forwarding, and no consistency in the format and contents of the documents that are issued and used, except as may be agreed or as per recommended. .

▪︎However, for the avoidance of doubt, it must be stated that, the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Association (FIATA), has taken steps to promote the use of uniform documents in shipping, aviation and road transportation, in other to promote trade security and protect the Freight Forwarders from undue liabilities in the course of discharging their professional engagements.

▪︎It is therefore, incumbent for the Freight Forwarders to sit with the relevant authorities to agree for the domestication of applicable documentary procedures, with format and contents additions, in line with peculiarities. The present scenario is rather outdated and a self professional defeat.

▪︎ At the moment, it is globally a professional provisions and conscious applications that, a freight forwarder embarking on any form of logistics exercise must have the basic understanding of the role performed and importance of applicable transport documents used in any contractual obligations and their requisite documentation processes and procedures.

▪︎In the view of these, and in an attempt to cause deliberate professional redirection and changes, the freight forwarders has need to grasp deeply and to judiciously interrogate and integrate the intricacies and technicalities inherent in the four main functions of the Bill of Lading (BOL) usages.

▪︎ It is therefore obligatory to state that, under the prevailing shipping practices in our shipping space, the freight forwarder are encourage to stop taking imports or exports documentation for granted.

▪︎ To this effect, the freight forwarders associations and the regulatory council has a duty to go back to the drawing board, articulate or restructure, fine tune and set in motion a professional regulatory domestication processes, that will encourage the use and promote the culture of indemnity letter application in shipping and Cargo clearance transactions in our shipping and aviation space, so as to cushion the effects of shipping documentation intricacies, especially on the BOL usages.

The canvass here is that, a professional regulations should be legislated in such a manner that it will subtly compels the practitioners to embrace the provisions of the FIATA-forwarders documents as it applies to:

■ Issuance of requisite documents to the shippers when exporting:

▪︎ FIATA FCR: Forwarders Certificate of Receipt.

▪︎ FIATA FCT: Forwarders Certificate of Transport.

▪︎ FBL: Negotiable FIATA Multimodal Transport BOL.

▪︎ FWR: FIATA Warehouse Receipt.

■ Requisite Documents To Demand From Shippers When Importing:

▪︎ FFI: FIATA Forwarding Instructions or Shippers Instructions – Serving further indemnity purposes.

▪︎ FIATA SDT: Shippers Declaration of Dangerous Goods.

3. Professional Emphasis:

For emphasis sake, it must be stated here that, the domestication, integration and application of the FIATA forwarding instructions or shippers instructions document and the combination with an “indemnity letter” will absolve the Freight Forwarders from such or of any undue transferred liabilities or potential losses, penalties, sanctions, etc.

Additionally, this desired professional regulation, will promote the culture of and boost compliance level with regards to national trade laws and cargo declaration for Customs purposes, it will enhance or improve professional integrity rating, it will be an added edge to booster specialities and competitiveness, especially so, in the face of requisite professional participation in the AfCTA implementation regime.

4. Professional Caution:

By way of professional caution, though the new Customs laws stresses and provisides for direct cargo processesing and clearance by the shippers under applicable conditions or the shippers choice of engaging a representative, however, freight forwarders who indulge themselves in the habit of creating import transactional pools for shippers via official floating and registering of an importing or trading firms, all in a bid to maximize a professional monopoly, net worth base and network, are hereby advised to reconsider their activities and operations under the prevailing circumstances.

5. Conclusion:

Finally, while the freight forwarders are admonished to brace up towards potential professional changes and distortions orchestrated by automation, higher revenue interests pursuits and globalization disruptions in the systems, especially, on the heels of renewed hope mantra, however, the Nigeria Customs Service and government itself has a duty to also create a level playing field that will promote equal trade treatments and promote even competition amongst the trading public. In this wise, the undue red tapes and trade imbalances created by the activities of import racketeering and insider traders must be nibbled on board, this is in further demonstration of transparency in administration and operational practices.

Here again, as a special appeal, it is noteworthy to posit that, it is not a healthy place for any national assembly committees to chase shippers around (invitational), on grounds of performing its over sight functions in relation to recovering duty infractions, post clearance. For positive national imaging sake, the committees after its re-audit activities, can write and direct the Customs to do the needful, this is in line with the renewed hope mantra.

Once more, professional changes are imminent. Time for swift response is now.

Happy New Year to all!

Thank you for your attention.

*Being a new year 2024 message to freight forwarding practitioners in the country.


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