Dr Boniface Aniebonam, NAGAFF Founder.

By Ambrose Okehi/ Maritime Security News

As the controversy surrounding the alleged  contaminated rice donated to some States of the federation lingers, the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has  thrown its weight on the issue, criticizing  the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and its well thought-out good gesture of donation bags of rice to state governments for their citizens as a result of the palliative measures to cushion the economic effects of the Vivid – 19.
Reacting to the issue, the association said, as a very critical stakeholder in the Maritime transportation and customs facilitation, the group is strategically positioned to make input on the ongoing public  outcry over some of the alleged contaminated rice being delivered to states from the government approved warehouses under Customs control. 

According to a statement from the association, “Let us start by reminding concerned persons and states that NIGERIA is a constitutional country with some other subsidiary legislation governing customs operations. At the moment the NIGERIA Customs service operations is under the regulation and control of an act of the national assembly . The act referred to as Customs and Excise management Act  – CAP 45 of 2004  AS AMENDED . Under the act the chairman of the board is the Hon Minister of finance. It is also a fact that the NIGERIA Customs Service is one of the Parastatals of the ministry of finance. We are equally aware that finance is a ministry in the presidency.”
Dr. Aniebonam further explained that with this public interest related matter, is important that thru draw the attention of all concerned to section 4 , 5 and 6 of the act detailing the powers of the board of Customs to make regulations for the proper MGT and administration of Customs laws. A close reading and understanding the sections as mentioned shall posit clearly that the inherent powers of the act is that of the Hon minister of finance and not the comptroller General of Customs.
He however, through the statement which was signed by the founder himself, said that the Hon minister of finance under section 5 of the act is expected to consult the comptroller General of Customs in any matter with a view to making an informed decision and directions in the proper management and administration of Customs laws and ancillary functions thereto.  
The statement further reads: “With regard to the gift of PALLIATIVES under COVID 19 pandemic we do disagree that the NIGERIA Customs Service gave any rice to any body including states as it were . Nagaff simply perceive the NIGERIA Customs Service whom the said contaminated rice is under her custody as a distribution channel and on behalf of the minister of finance and presidency in particular  .  In the opinion of Nagaff the Officers and men of the Customs are not trained as quality assurance personnels.
“Even at this MATTER it shall be our opinion  that their role is clear and unambiguous and it shall be simply to distribute rice as directed by the PRESIDENCY. It is important that we emphasize that the  outcry over the rice PALLIATIVES from the media and the public could be traced to some statements made by the comptroller General of customs as at the time of seizure of some of the rice . We are aware that the CGC actually said that some of the rice seized in the past were expired and in some cases contaminated.”
Aniebonam who seriously condemned the allegations against the NCS, insisting that they “We are constrained to point out that it shall be the duty of the presidency to ask questions at the time of giving approval to distribute the alleged expired rice kept in the custody of Customs as a palliatives.” 
The group also called on the presidency to direct the ministry of Health  to work with other agencies of government.
 “It is also the duty of the presidency to direct  NAFDAC through Ministry of Health to undergo quality assurance test of the said rice before its distribution. The NIGERIA Customs Service do not have any business with all of the issues arising from the rice PALLIATIVES other than to carry out orders of the presidency as received. It is to NAGAFF that there is a gross negligence of duty on the part of Ministry of health and its subsidiary ( NAFDAC) in carrying out their oversight functions on those rice PALLIATIVES under questioning even before this time of need . This MATTER indeed have nothing to do with the comptroller General of customs as a person nor the NIGERIA customs service because  they are not saddled with quality control duty  nor designed as a quality control agency of the GOVERNMENT.”

“We urge all the concerned parties to look in the direction of presidency, ministry of health and NAFDAC to know what actually happened really. We must emphasize that it is equally important to note that the particular batch of rice said to have expired and or contaminated at the time of seizure may not be among the rice PALLIATIVES under questioning. It is our hope that the NIGERIA Customs Service board shall learn a lot of lessons from this experience. It is very clear under section 31 of Customs laws which  spelt out dwell time of cargo in the Customs ports and sale of auction as an ancillary function. One is tempted to ask why do we seize the rice and left it out of time at the GOVERNMENT warehouses. Why have we not sold them auction and or give it out to the needy because it is a common knowledge that rice can not withstand humid conditions for a longer time. We also know that there are so many laden containers and vehicles seized by the Customs which may be out of time for auction sales and or as the board of NCS may deem it proper to deal with those goods lying at the ports and government APPROVED warehouses . Under COVID 19 pandemic PALLIATIVES it shall be the advise of NAGAFF to Mr PRESIDENT that the owners of such seized trade goods be granted amnesty to come forward and pay appropriate Customs duty and penalty thereto and take delivery of their imports. 
“It is our belief that the federal GOVERNMENT shall realize billions of Naira as Customs duty rather than selling it auction over a paltry sum . In all of this the NIGERIA customs service do not have any role to play other than to carry out instructions and or orders given to them by the presidency. The NCS is statutorily charged with the responsibility among others to collect import, export and excise duty. Other ancillary functions shall include anti smuggling functions, trade facilitation, post audit functions, provision of trade statistics for budgetary matters and collaboration with regional and international bodies on trade related matters. On behalf of all our importers, excise traders and public interest we are graciously appealing to the NIGERIA Customs to draw the attention of Mr PRESIDENT over  several containers of trade goods lying at the ports which were seized by  the Customs and or as an overtime cargo . Mr President should invite the owners to pay appropriate Customs duty and penalty thereto as a punishment for the contravention of Customs laws. This shall be the high point of PALLIATIVES under COVID 19 pandemic. It is a common knowledge that the federal GOVERNMENT needed locally generated revenue to meetup with expenses in dealing with CORONAVIRUS FATALITY.
” GOVERNMENT just have to take every reasonable  steps to generate internal revenue at this point in time because the post effect of COVID 19 pandemic may not be friendly to NIGERIA economy. It is our hope that the concerned agency in charge of food and drug administration in NIGERIA should take responsibility to do a due diligent work on the alleged contaminated rice. The concept of mudslinging, buck passing blames , playing politics , denials,television show and avoidable anger should  be set aside. Let us face the main issue zeroed on stemming the FATALITY of CORONAVIRUS in our country. Let love of God and PATRIOTISM take the centre stage in this critical moment of our nationhood.

Seized parboiled bags of rice

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