Apapa Port: Importers, Clearing Agents Plea with Compt. Olomu for Better Understanding over Their cargoes

By Stephen Ubanna

 The auditorium of the Apapa Command of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, under the close watch of  Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, MFR, was filled with  members of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, NCMDLCA, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA  and National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders and other industry stakeholders including Maritime Journalists  during the handover ceremony of the Leadership of the Command by Compt ,Babajide Jaiyeoba, who was said to have started his two  months  preretirement leave  to Compt. Babatunde Olomu,  on Monday, May 6, 2024.

Compt .Olomu: New Area Controller, Apapa Command and a team player

Given the robust working relationship between the Clearing Agents and Compt. Jayeioba, the immediate past Area Controller of the Apapa Command, may have informed why the agents had made a passionate plea to the incumbent Apapa Command, Area Controller ‘’to carry them along in the discharge of his duties instead of allowing them run into trouble in taking delivery of their cargoes at the port’’.

 Describing the former Apapa Command Area Controller as a father, the Agent had said that he had protected their interest at the port as he never allowed them run into trouble at the premier port for the eights that he had held the mantle of Leadership of the Command.  They were said to have cited an instance of a case with AP Moller, the Concessionaire which oversees APM Terminal, which currently have Ibrahim Turaki, a Deputy Comptroller, as the Officer-In –Charge, over the positioning of their Containers for examination after payment of the relevant duties which could have resulted in the shutdown of the port operations last year.

 The aggrieved agents were said to have petitioned the then Apapa Command Area Controller and Port Commissioner of Police about the situation on ground and their plan to shut down the port operations.  Compt. Jaiyeoba, who had had just started his pre-retirement leave was said to have appealed to the agents that there was no basis to shutdown the port operations which will affect its daily revenue collection , promising to intervene to resolve the conflict of interest between the two parties.

True to his words, he as said to have intervened forcing AP Moller to position the importers with their agents Containers for examination whenever payments are  made instead of delaying it for day and still charge them demurrage for it. The agents had confirmed that ever since the former Apapa Area Controller intervened in the vexed issue between the Apapa port Concessionaire and the agents, normalcy had returned been  to the port. This is because even if the Apapa port Concessionaire, AP Moller faill to position the agents’ Container for examination they never charge them demurrage for the number of days it was delayed before it was finally positioned for cargo examination. It was not surprisisng why there had been total peace between the clearing agents and AP Moller at the Apapa port in the recent time.

Aware that Compt. Olomu , who had served at the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja , Lagos, and as the DC. Enforcement, Apapa Command, under former Compt. Yusuf Malanta, now an Assistant Comptroller General at he Customs Headquarters,  where he could laugh with you and still do what he wants to do to any agent whose importer contravenes he government Fiscal policy, may have given the industry stakeholders what to expect from him as the new helmsman of Apapa Command.

The Customs Comptroller in his acceptance speech during the had-over ceremony may have made the importers with their agents to understand that his redeployment from the Customs Headquarters where he was the Officer in- charge of Overtime cargo to Apapa Command was ‘’a serious assignment’’.  He  was said to have made it clear to those that cares to listen that he won’t betray the trust reposed on the by the new Management team of the Command by the  Federal Government of Nigeria,  the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, CGC,  and the entire Management team of the service. 

Compt. Jayeioba,rtd: Immediate Past Area Controller , Apapa Command, NCS

He may have gladdened the heart of Compt. Jayeioba, when he noted that he is taking over an organized Command where he intends to build on the successes of his predecessor’’ to deliver diligently ‘’not only in revenue collection, fight against smuggling , ensure improved trade facilitation  and sustainable  stakeholder  management’’. 

The Apapa Customs Comptroller, may have sent a message to the importers with their clearing agents that it is no longer going to business as usual when he declared to the surprise of many that’’ the Command unequivocally will implement the provisions of the Customs an Excise Management Act, 2023, CEMAD, which had been passed by the 9th National Assembly and signed into Law by former President Buhari in April, barely two months before he left office in May 29, 2023.  He was said to have also  said that the Command  will implement the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Common External Tariff, CET, Import and Export Prohibition  Guidelines and other books of instruction  as directed by the FG.

Determined to ensure a good working relationship with other Government agencies at the port, the Apapa Customs boss had said that ‘’to cheat the Government shall be zero.’ there will be regular interface of all relevant government agencies and private sector stakeholders and upscale the Area Command intelligence enforcement with intelligence   to caught the wings of fraudulent importers with their agents.

He has made it clear that only ‘’legitimate trade will be allowed at the Apapa port as he had said that the Command and under his Leadership and all the terminals under its supervision across Lagos and its environs. Fraudulent importers with their agents have every reason to worry as he had said that ’’the Command tolerance level for smuggling Tramadol, Codeine, Cocaine, and other prohibited drugs and other items, and false declaration to evade duty payment shall be zero’’. 

Compt. Olomu, who could not hide his feelings noted that since the country holds strategic position for trade in the West and Central African sub-regions, Apapa port which handles over 50% of the volume of cargoes coming  into the country is critical in the country’s participation I the African Continental Free Area, AfCFTA. He was said to have confirmed that the service is already reviving the country’s readiness   for improved trade with neighbouring Benin Republic and other member countries of the ECOWAS, and the world at large.

Appealing to the officers to the officers to treat all matters with the speed they deserve as leaving no files unattended to could mean slowing down government   revenue inflow on a daily basis.  He may have given the importers with their agents a cause to be happy when he gave his words ‘’to put in place in the Command ‘’a trade dispute resolution seat’’ that will operate on a daily basis including weekends as a way to make ‘’the Apapa Command   a true front liner in global best practices in terms of Customs operation’’ for other Customs Formation across the country to emulate.  At Apapa Command.

Enough on Compt. Olomu, we turn to review the eight months in office of Compt. Jayiyeoba before he started his two months pre-retirement leave. The immediate past Apapa Command Area Comptroller who was said to have been praised to high havens by the industry stakeholders and officers as a ‘’silent achiever’’, may have taking advantage of the opportunity provided by the handover ceremony to his Compt. Olomu, hi successor to speak out on his eight months in office.

He had alluded to the fact when he assumed office in September 18, 2023, with the redeployment of the the Compt.Auwal Mohammed, to Customs Headquarters now an Assistant Comptroller General of Customs, his heart bled as his predecessor had boasted that he generated over N10 billion for the government in one day, which was the target for three months in Oyo/Osun Command, where he was coming from to new Command. He noted that with the assurances of support he received from the officers and the Management team, it strengthened his resolve ‘’to succeed.

He was emphatic ; After eight months in office, it gives me great joy to recall the very suspense filled heart and inciting moments of goals achieved day by day, week by week and month by month culminating into tangible results. The former Apapa Command Area Controller had revealed that it he had made unprecedented achievement in improved cargo clearing, and trade facilitation without blemish.

 He could beat his chest that the Command under his Leadership beat the then Compt. Mohammed record as it collected over N16 billion as revenue for the government in one day in the month of Sept. 2023,,operation and over N100 million in one month for the government.  

The Customs comptroller. rtd, may have shocked many when he disclosed that between January and April, 2024, the Flagship Command under his Leadership    collected as revenue for the government a total of N4,6212,624,033.03.

 He may have used his last month of April, as Area Controller of Apapa Command to prove that he is a revenue mobilizer.  It is noteworthy to explain that in the month of April, 2024, alone, the Command generated N182 billion, for the government, described as record breaking in monthly collections by industry operators since the history of the Command.

Compt. Jayeioba is optimistic that his successor, Olomu, will deliver on his mandate and perform better in office going by his antecedents.  It was not surprising why he has encouraged the officers ‘’to triple or possibly   quadruple the cooperation and support extended to him while in office to his successor, stressing that ‘’it is for the benefit of the country. Describing Compt. Olomu, whom he had known for years, a team player and result oriented officer’’, he urged the officers to remain loyal and dedicated to their duties.    

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