Clearing Agents Threaten To Shut Ports Due To Unstable Customs’ Duties

By Clement Alphonsus
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Taiwo Mustapha (Chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT), ANLCA)

If the government fails to tackle the persistent fluctuations in foreign exchange rate used in calculating customs duty on imported goods within the next 30 days, the clearing agents, under the aegis of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), have threatened to shutdown the nation’s ports.

Although, it was reported that the exchange rate for Customs import calculations has dropped from ₦1,605.52 to N1,488.896 per dollar, the dropin exchange rate, determined by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has taken immediate effect on the customs portal.

Despite that, the agents insisted that the CBN should have a fixed exchange rate for importation over a period of at least six months.

The Chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT), ANLCA, Taiwo Mustapha, expressed the association’s concern over the escalating exchange rates, warning that the group would partner with the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) and the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) to enforce and ensure that the strike action is successful.

Mustapha noted that with the recent surge in the exchange rate, reaching about N1800 per dollar, the association cannot continue to seat aloof, watching the situation while its members are suffering and businesses are shutting down.

According to him, “As at Tuesday, the exchange rate from the system jumped to about N1800 per dollar. That is the effect of the inflationwe are having in the country today.

“This has affected most of our practitioners today. Volume of trade and cargo clearance has reduced drastically because people can no longer afford to import at that rate again. If we keep quiet, most of us we go out of business.

“We cannot afford to have our exchange rate, especially when it has to do with Customs duty on a floating level.

“We are appealing to government to look into this issue but if nothing is done, at our own level, we will collaborate with the maritime workers union and the NLC to shut down the ports."

Similarly, the President of ANLCA, Emenike Nwokeoji was displeased over the continuous changes in the official trade transactional rates sometimes up to twice or thrice in a day, making it impossible for clearing agents to provide credible quotes for jobs.

According to him, “The issue of foreign exchange rates in relation to the naira has become somewhat intractable that we as the mouthpiece of the Customs brokers/freight forwarders in Nigeria can no longer afford to be silent.

“It is a well-known fact that Nigeria’s trade has a predominant foreign exchange content and Nigeria being an import-dependent country, the effect of any exchange rate distortions can be devastating. Our major concern is about the exchange rates being used in computing import duty and other charges payable on imports.

“Apart from the elementary economics that teaches us that no country can afford to allow her currency to be subjected to the law of supply and demand without hurting her economy, the more pressing issue is that the constant and upward changes in the exchange rate for Customs trade purposes are putting everything in a state of confusion."

While urging the Federal Government to direct the CBN to tackle the issue, Emenike suggested stabilising the exchange rate for calculating customs duty by fixing it over a minimum period of six months