SON to tackle unapproved importation through e-platform
According to SON, the step involves use of e-platform and integration of its services and certificates into the Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS).
Besides, the agency has cautioned those who manipulate the importation system to desist from such act, pointing out “there are now roadblocks and checkpoints. It is no longer business as usual”.
Under the new arrangement, e-product certificate and SON Conformity Assessment Programme ( SONCAP) certificate will be tied to the relevant processes for the generation of form ‘M’ and generation of Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) for clearance of goods at the nation’s seaports.
Also playing critical roles in the initiative are the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) among others.
SON’s head, Inspectorate and Compliance Directorate, Bede Obayi, an engineer, explained at the weekend that the agency need to put in place a system that works for the overall benefits of all stakeholders including the government, importers, freight forwarders, customs agents, “indeed, genuine operators in the Maritime, business and industrial sectors of the economy”.
Obayi said the initiative is also designed to discourage human contact, save time and resources and facilitate trade generally.
Accompanied by head of port operation, Suleiman Issa and head of inspectorate and compliance, Lekan Omoniyi, an engineer, Obayi said the initiative has eliminated circulation of fake certificates completely.
He said based on the new SON Act, which gives the agency power to prosecute offenders, all hands are now on deck to protect the nation from the importation of substandard products.
Obayi said: “We (SON) are ready for action”, adding that the integration of SON’s services and certificates into the NICIS is to primarily drive home our organisation’s service delivery capabilities”.
Listing benefits of NICIS on trade facilitation, Obayi said: “What we as an organisation has done concerning development on the trade portal and NICIS covers critical areas such as:
*“Itemising HS codes of products regulated by SON for the public to easily confirm if a product is SON’s regulated or not;
* “Providing list of SON’s documentation requirement before approval can be granted for a regulated product to be imported into Nigeria;
* “Converting all SON Certificates/documents required for importation of regulated products to electronic format;
* “Provide online and real-time means of transmitting the certificates to the trade portal/NICIS by consignee, with e-Product Certificate for processing Form ‘M’ and e-SONCAP Certificate for processing PAAR using any device such as phones, tablets or Personal Computers at any convenient location. This makes processing of Form ‘M’ easier as importers with valid e-certificate can simply attach the certificate to their form when processing Form ‘M’ at the comfort of the person’s office, eliminating direct contact (visits to SON office for certification processing) and
*“Setting up a Customer/Consumer Helpdesk at Apapa, Lagos and Abuja.
He said the system provide easy access to information on products regulated by SON, adding that consignees can confirm if a product is regulated by SON through any online platform.
According to Obayi, the system eliminate need to apply for paper SON Product Certificate/Import Permits, ‘which is later uploaded during Form ‘M’ application’.
He said consignee need to put the certificate number of the ‘activated e-Product Certificate’ on the ‘ATTACHMENT’ section of form.
Explaining further, Obayi advised stakeholders to ensures that consignee sources product from reputable source prior to approval of Form ‘M’.
The process according to him assures that all documents submitted into NICIS have been reviewed and verified by SON, “thus eliminating documentary fraud. No need for double-checking”.
Other benefits according to SON include “protecting Nigerian consumers from substandard products by ensuring that only consignment that has passed through the mandatory SONCAP is allowed into the country.
“Facilitate trade by reducing restrictions inherent in clearance of goods through Nigerian Ports thus enhancing customers’ satisfaction
“Provide statistical reports for SON on e-PC usage for Registered Form ‘M’ and e-SC usage for PAAR Consignments by any applicable search criteria.
“Provide statistical reports for SON, for intelligence management and risk profiling, on level of compliance to requirements for importation of regulated products
“A collaborative environment for partner Government agencies (e-Government) to share in real-time information for national security, national planning and the compilation of national statistics”, said Obayi.
He explained the CBN, NCS, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), National Agency for Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) among others are involved in ensuring that government services are easily made available to the public
Obayi, who spoke on sundry issues related to the scheme said: “I want to categorically state here, in doing all these, we want to ensure that our staff do not engage in unwholesome transactions and sharp practices with companies, importers, associations or individuals.
“You will agree with me that cutting corners, fraudulent and unscrupulous acts would not only subvert and circumvent any organisation’s efforts but equally create bad blood vis-a-vis image problem between such organisation and its several publics. “We are ready to help maritime operators and other stakeholders carry out seamless import business as well as export local products with ease.
“We, therefore, use this opportunity to let all and sundry know that the era of shoddy deals and undercover transactions is over.
“Transparency and openness are the watchword. If you were doing the right thing, regulatory agencies such as SON, would help your business to grow.
“However, those who like to manipulate the system and get away with it, should know that there are now roadblocks and checkpoints; it is no longer business as usual.
“Trade facilitation has since become a sing-song among nations of the world. Nowadays, no country wants to be left behind in international trade and global competitiveness.
“Trade Facilitation would entail ensuring that Nigerian industrialists, importers and operators in both organised private sector and public institutions carry out their transactions smoothly and successfully through mainly deploying the instrumentality of Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) and the Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS), which allows businesses to be transacted electronically while all Government Agencies have access to monitor the system to ensure compliance.
“What we have been doing in SON, as one of those agencies affected by the federal government’s directives to leave the Ports in 2011 is to re-strategised our approach in ensuring that only safe and standard products are allowed into our country.
“We have been devising means to ensure that Nigeria does not become a dumping ground for substandard and unwholesome products.
“With the integration of SON into NICIS we have been on the alert and we have been able to use much insiders’ information and tip offs to intercept trucks loaded with fake and sub-standard goods coming out from the Ports on our highways.
At this juncture, we need to call for more collaborations, engagement and synergies from stakeholders, just like are presently enjoying with partner government agencies, towards ensuring that our great nation seizes the momentum of change being offered by the present administration to fully arrive at economic diversification.