Monday, March 22, 2021 3:06 pm
Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has been directed by President Mohammadu Buhari to reintroduce Cargo Tracking Notes (CTN) in a bid “to curb the proliferation of arms and increase in banditry across the nation.” Despite the closure of land borders, dangerous weapons still found their ways into Nigeria and they became handy for criminals and other desperadoes.
According to Maritime experts, CTN or the ECTN (Electronic Cargo Tracking Note), “is a system for collecting documents and processing information, when exporting by sea in order to obtain prior information, to participate in security measures, statistics, and generally in order to participate in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Customs Organization (WCO) recommendations on trade facilitation and security.” Put differently, it helps to provide information about cargo, its place of origin, final destinations and individuals or organizations that own them.
An example was when, in 2017 alone, 2671 pump-action rifles were seized by security officials at Nigerian seaports. The importers used some subterranean tactics by legally registering then for export in Turkey as pump-action rifles for hunting. In Morocco, however, the importers did some permutations and the manifests were changed to become “steel doors.” Such intrigue was to enable the container gain entry into Nigeria. However, with the re-introduction of CTN, Nigeria will, if such should happen again, see the original manifests from the point of origin in Turkey stop the guns before they land in the Nigerian ports.
There are 24 African countries that make use of the CTN strategy: Angola, Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana and Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Togo.
On 5 March 2020 when he delivered a lecture in Akure in Ondo State, Mr. Femi Falana, a Senir Advocate of Nigeria, lamented that Nigeria lost $500 million due to illegal suspension of Cargo Tracking Note by the federal government
Cargo Tracking Note scheme, according to him, was conceived following the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States of America, which led the International Maritime Organization to introduce a security framework for enhancing the protection of international shipping and the prevention of the movements of dangerous cargo and arms shipments in all the maritime regions of the world. The system, with numerous advantages such as plugging revenue leakages, putting end to under-declaration of cargoes, importation of arms, ammunition, banned drugs among others, was even at no cost to shippers, importers, governments and shipping lines.
“The Cargo Tracking Note system was introduced in Nigeria in 2010 via an Agreement signed between the Nigerian Port Authority and TPMS, a private company. Barely a year later, the agreement was illegally suspended indefinitely by the federal government. When our attention was drawn to illegal suspension of the Cargo Tracking Note system we protested to the federal government. The suspension was lifted on May 28, 2015. But the company was not allowed to resume work as the contract was again suspended in 2016 on grounds of fraud. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission investigated the allegation and found that the sum of €70 million was generated when the system was implemented for only 15 months. Two officials of the company indicted in the investigation for diverting part of the fund that ought to have been paid into the federation account have been charged before the Lagos high court by the EFCC. Thus, on account of the illegal suspension of the Cargo Tracking Note system the country has lost not less than $500 million.”
Read Falana’s full speech here
Experts’ Opinions on CTN
According to Dr. Alban Igwe, a maritime lawyer, technocrat and Director of Education and Research in the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN): “The objective is to improve the security and safety of the supply chain and help us see the profile of products we are bringing in. It will help us know the origin and destination of cargoes and help us know our enemies.
Besides insecurity, CTN has also been described as the best platform in checking revenue leakages in imports as well as obtaining information about the content of the cargoes. CTN will address situations in which importers under-invoice their goods from the suppliers at the point of purchases to pay less duties. The platform will check the trend to ensure manifests are not tampered with by ships for the purpose of cheating on GT.
The Executive Secretary, NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello: “It will boost the revenue of the government in customs revenue collection in the sense that it will abate under – declaration and concealment. It will boost the revenue of NPA because there will be no more alteration of the manifests. It will boost the revenue of NIMASA because under – declaration on the weight of ships will not be there any longer.
CTN is also a veritable source of data and some economic experts describe this as the best quality of the electronic based platform.
He added: “You will know everything that is coming into your country. We have had many African countries having this because it is the initiation of the Union of African Shippers Council (UASC).”