Stakeholders Urge Govt To Revoke Export Inspection Contract
THE recent appointment of pre-shipment agents by the Federal Ministry of Finance has become a source of concern to stakeholders, who believe it could undermine the nation’s economy.
The stakeholders, at a one-day Forum organised by Procurement Observation and Advocacy Initiative (PRADIN), in Abuja, to examine matters related to exports, said the appointment was not done transparently.
At the occasion, national coordinator, PRADIN, Mohammed Attah noted that evidence abounds that several firms that do not have the legal authority and professional capacity to conduct pre-shipment inspection have been engaged in the past without providing the necessary basic information to the appropriate quarters.
All export products, including oil, gas and non-oil goods except for a few are required to be inspected by a government appointed ‘Agent’ and a certificate issued before such product can leave the shores of Nigeria under the new dispensation.
The Ministry of finance had established the Nigerian Export Supervision Scheme (NESS) to appraise and recommend the appointment of inspectors,’ subject to the approval of the President.
According to them, pre-shipment inspection is a highly specialized field, which require only professionals and experts to handle.
Pre-shipment inspection scheme was put in place primarily to determine the quantity and quality of products leaving Nigeria and also a platform for exchange control for the country, providing the federal government with information on how much is coming into the Nigerian economy. The funds generated are expected to be kept with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), that will in return give a percentage to the export inspector’s.
According to sources, Cobalt International Services, a certified international pre-shipment inspector was engaged by the finance ministry under the Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration to carry out the inspection and surveillance. Then the total cargo inspection activities increased the nation’s revenue from $100 million to $2 billion, through the enforcement of compliance with existing export laws.
Despite the performance of the regime under this agent, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala decided to appoint additional inspectors against professional advice by Messr Mc Kinsey.
Sources at the Ministry of Finance said the former minister and coordinating minster of the economy recommended additional agents for approval to the former President, in May 2015 after he had lost at the general election.
According to Attah, the splitting of the contract was not done with the best of intentions, emphasizing that it will deny the federal government access to relevant export data in the country. “This will make planning impossible and it could undermine the capacity of government to develop the country”
In his contribution, Yusuf Abubakar, an expert in dry cargo business corroborated Attah’s statement, saying the motive behind the split is not good for the revenue drive of the federal government
“The effect of that is that the nation does not have an accurate information on the total value of exports from the country as conflicting reports would be sent to the supervising agencies”, he noted.
Sources say the Buhari administration on sensing the irregularities in the appointment of the new inspectors, cancelled the contract of pre-shipment inspector’s in respect of the oil sector, unaware of the subsisting contracts covering the dry cargo sector of the pre-shipment scheme.