6th July, 2012
By Esther Komolafe
Though use of the Single Goods Declaration (SGD) forms has been phased out by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) because it is no longer relevant under the current dispensation of online direct data input by shippers and their agents, unscrupulous Customs men at the various Customs Area Commands have continued to feed fat on sale of the form.
Investigations revealed that desk officers at the various Customs Processing Centres (CPCs) especially in the Lagos zone have continued to insist on sighting and endorsing SGD forms even after declarations have been done online on the platform of the Direct Traders’ Input (DTI) under the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA++).
NCS used to print the SGD forms through the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Corporation (NSPMC) and sell to agents in bundles of 25 at a cost of N15,000 per bundle but officially the printing and sales was discontinued two years ago with the introduction of DTI.
The intractable Customs operatives now print the forms by themselves and sell at the various commands for N2,000 per form.
“They insist that we must bring SGD form for each declaration made for sighting and endorsement but this is illegal because we have already done our declaration at the DTI cafe. Apart from the illegal sales of the form, we are charged between N50,000 and N100,000 depending on the nature of goods, for endorsement,” Adolphus Okoronkwo, a clearing agent said at the Apapa Area One Command.
On why he buys and submits SGD form despite knowing that it was wrong to do so, Okoronkwo said: “You know these Customs people can make life difficult. If you don’t play along, it means you will not get your goods cleared and you will incur demurrage charges that will even surpass what they are asking for.”
It is estimated that between 15,000 and 20,000 SGD forms are sold daily at all the Customs Commands in Lagos namely Apapa Area One, Tin Can Island, PTML, Lilypond and Kirikiri Lighter Terminal. This means that the SGD racket fetches between N30 million and N40 million into the pockets of the Customs officers and their accomplices while the amount made through illegal endorsement of the SGD forms is difficult to determine.