Customs: How Licensed Customs Agents Encourage Touting At PTML

By Stephen Ubanna

The last may not have been  heard  about the touting activities at Port Multi-services Terminal Limited , PTML,  at the Tin-can Island and Mile2 terminals. Recall that on March 17, 2021, the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, under the close watch of Usman Yahaya, a Deputy Comptroller, Operations and Lagos Roving, Patrol Team had intercepted an SUV4, 2019, model  released  at the Mile 2, terminal around the Lagos State  waterworks at mile 2.

The vehicle , which had an outstanding duty payment of 3.5 million was said to have been transferred to the Command premises  where it is currently being detained. The issue of the touting at the PTML, which is under the close watch of Felix Okun, the Ondo state born  Customs Comptroller, became exposed as a national issue when the alleged touts attacked the FOU Zone A,,Patrol Team  and snatched the SUV4, vehicle from and even made   attempts to disarm one of the Customs Inspectors.  But luck ran out of them as they were caught up by the Courageous Jack Okpabi, an Assistant Comptroller, boys, at Sun-Rise, due to the heavy traffic, along the Mile 2 and Apapa road and the vehicle recovered from them and quickly transferred to the Command where it  has been detained.

Ali: CG, Customs

 Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller and the National Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Customs Service,NCS, may have spoken the mind of Hameed Ali, a retired  army Colonel, and Customs Comptroller General, at an event  organised by Ahmadu Shuaibu, a Deputy Comptroller and Coordinator, of the CGC,Strike Force Force, team A, to showcase the Team interceptions and seizures, in the month of February, on Tuesday, March 29, 2021, that’’ the detained SUV4, vehicle will not be released to the agent of the importer until the N3.5million outstanding duty payment  is paid to the last kobo’’.

Appealing to Nigerians to protect Customs personnel carrying out their Legitimate duties and endeavor to volunteer information to help the service track the smugglers, both at the seaports and the Land borders, he described as wrong for a group of people to gang up to snatch a vehicle intercepted by a Customs Patrol Team.

Okun: Comptroller, PTML

Mohammed Yakubu, a Deputy Superintendent of Customs and spokesperson PTML,  may have spoken the mind of Comptroller Okun, who has been very angry over the first story that had appeared on the  The Value News Website: Touts Take over PTML, on Monday, March 28,2021, had said that there is no way that the Comptroller or any releasing officer would have known  who  is  a genuine agent or not as they have the PTML access card to the terminals to carry out their transactions.

He had said  that the Command only ‘deal  with Licensed Customs agents and not touts’’. The question on the lips of most people was: how did the issue of touting came about at the terminal that it dominates the discussion of the genuine agents at the terminal.

 Recall that Attah, the Customs spokesperson , had repeatedly said that the genuine agents sublet their Operating Licenses to the  touts, and equally avail them the Opportunity of using their access card to  the terminals  to do their  own jobs, which had often landed most of them into trouble. This may have been what happened  with the recent release of the SUV 4, 2019 model that had resulted  in the vehicle being detained at FOU, Zone A.

 Comptroller Okun, who is still boiling with rage over The Value News story may have told his close Associates and the  Loyal officers, who may have drawn his attention to the story that he cannot stop any Reporter from doing his work, so long as he knows within his Conscience that he is doing’ the right thing’’.Some Journalists who claimed to be members of MARAN, were said to have taken advantage of the story to visit him , forcing him to voice out his anger against The Value News. The Magazine was informed that he had planned to counter the Value News report by organizing a press Conference but stopped at the last minute.

Yakubu,,an image maker of the Command , may have introduced a new dimension to the problem of  touting at the PTML terminals when he told The Magazine  that the era of ASYCUDA , is over, where the importer and the agent decides who would handle their job is, an indications that there  is nothing like touting at the PTML two terminals where their officers  are working.

 He disclosed that under the present e-Customs, the only contact the Command have with the agents  are with the Valuation and Releasing Officers, as much of the clearing process are done  by the agent who makes the declaration. The Value News findings shows that there 10 Assistant Comptrollers at the Command, doing the releasing of cargoes.

Given an insight on how cargoes are released at the terminal including vehicle, Yakubu, who may have seen the Value News as being unfriendly PTML, given the impression of the Area Comptroller for not also drumming the positive sides of the Command had said that” ”the system  decides which Assistant Comptroller or releasing  officer could handle any job, unlike the situation in the past.  

Many believe that if the CGC Strike Force, TEAM A, officers has been  allowed  to mount  road blocks like the FOU, Zone A, personnel, and with the regular alerts coming  from the ad-hoc Team A, Information Communication  Technology, ICT, Unit, it would have  been making more of such vehicles seizures  with low duty.

They noted that the Team had saved comptroller  Okun, the Valuation and the releasing officers of the   embarrassment it may have caused them with the seizure of such vehicles by the Team. The CGC Strike Force, which is intelligence driven as it gets the Manifest of the ship before its arrival into the country, gives the Team ICT officials, an insight to know  what  the importers  are carrying in their Containers and the Value slammed on the Consignment or vehicles by the relevant Commands at the Lagos ports and the terminals  put under their control.

Aa Agent who spoke to the Magazine on condition of anonymity, confirmed it. He had said that those who have been found wanting based on the multiple alert raised on the imported  cargo, had been given Demand Notice, DN,  which are  paid before the cargo  could be allowed  exit the port.

  It is not surprising why the ad-Team had recovered  about N1.2 billion for the government  from underpayment in the month of February 2021 from cargoes that had been exited and tor detained at the Lagos ports until the Agent resolve the issues raised in their alert with the Team: False declaration, wrong Classification and under-payment.

The Management of PTML, may have known that the alleged  touts parading themselves at the terminals, in the guise  of being  as Licensed Customs Agents are giving  them bad name, because of the interception and seizure of vehicles released from their  Terminals, particular, the Mile 2, terminal , may have  informed why they have  tightened up security  at the Mile exit gate to control the movement of peoples in and out of the terminal.

 There is no gain saying the fact that with the tight security at the PTML,  Mile2, exit gate,  and other plans which the Authorities have at hand in the future to  make the terminal as a truly modern port model in Africa, would make it extremely very difficult for the  touts to find their way to the PTML terminals in Lagos.  This should gladden the heart of Comptroller Okun, who is under intense pressure to control the touts, who according  to an insider been there before his deployment to the Command.

John Okafor, a Lagos based importer had said that the only to control the touts who are all over theLagos ports of Apapa, Tincan Island, and KiriKiri Lighter Terminal Phases 1|&2, is for the Customs Authorities to delist any  genuine  Agent’s operating License sub-let to any support who have no license to operate as an Agent insisde the port that runs into produce due to infraction of government fiscal policies as a deterrence to others  who do so.          

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