For years, Port –Multi-services Terminal Limed , PTML, which was basically designed to handle Roll- On and Roll- Off Grimaldi vessels, carrying vehicles, machinery and equipment at Tincan Island, had been a haven for fraudulent importers with their agents. The situation was very worrisome because of the large number of agents chasing one Single Digit Drawer’s Form at the Customs Processing Centre, CPC.
Past Area Comptrollers were said to have made several attempts to contain the activities of the faudulent agents and touts, who were described as experts in ’’ Machine Outside’’, popular, MO, and forging of Customs documents to take delivery of their cargoes from the terminal.
Festus Okun, the Current Area Comptroller of PTML may not have wanted to fail where his Predecessors had failed. Between 2019 and now , he was said to have invested heavily on intelligence which had given him an insight to what is happening at the terminals from his office. He was said to have also equipped the CPC,, which are working closely with the Headquarters ICT, to have at their finger- tips, cargoes discharged and exited from the terminal any point in time.
He may have discovered within his first few months in office in the Command in 2019, that the Enforcement Unit, was a toothless bulldog , parading the best of hands but no powers to do their job. He has no option but to empower the Unit to arrest and detain any cargo at the terminal found to have contravened the government extant laws on importation and clearing of goods.
That much was confirmed by Yakubu, Mohammed Awwal, a Deputy Superintendent of Customs, DSC, and the Command , Spokesperson. He had said that the Okun led PTML, Management over the last two years had invest on’ ’capacity building of officers, strengthening of the dispute resolution Committee and building a strong team for quality service delivery, which had facilitated the ease of doing business at the terminal.
With the free hand given to the Enforcement Unit to do their work without Compromise, the officers were said to have sent a signal to the unrepentant fraudulent importers and agents, particular, the touts, that it is no longer going to be business as usual. It is instructive to note that they may have penetrated the ranks of the agents who struggle to give out information to them on suspected Containers, particular, if it is a job being pursued by different clearing agencies and the parties have details of the contents of the Container.
The Value News visited the Command Enforcement Unit and found heaps of files of cargoes awaiting to be treated which was never the case in the past. Giving their determination to make the difference and prove to Okun, the Command Area Comptroller that they knew what they were doing, they were said to have been various meticulous in the assignment as much much as reduce contact with the agents to avoid been Compromised.
This may have informed why the Unit was able to make a seizure of six by ‘’20ft Containers, which the Customs Comptroller had described as ‘’the first in six years’’. The Containers were said to have been loaded Idole lightening soap and lotion. The importer with his agent were said to have made attempts to penetrate the ranks of the officers to get the Containers released but were disappointed because of the tight security arrangement that had been put in place to checkmate the activities of the stakeholders at the terminal.
Given an insider information on why the six by ‘’20’’ Containes were seized by the Command , the Comptroller had said that ‘’the importation was done in Contravention of the country’s extant laws’’ According to him, ’while soap is listed under schedule III, of the Common Externat Tariff, CET, , Import Prohibition trade,, he noted that ‘’the lotion was falsely declared as bean seeds’’, which is liable to seizures.
Informed sources had told The Magazine that the PTML Area Comptroller , the Enforcement officers, AB. Ahmed , a Deputy Comptroller, who is a trained Customs Intelligence and one one-time , Head of the CIU, Apapa Command, and his men had celebrated the seizure of the six ‘’20’’ Containers, which Valuation experts had put at about N287,009,745.00. The PTML, top officials, have every reason to be happy as the Command had joined the club of Commands that have been making seizures of Containers over alleged infractions false declarations and Concealment.
Note that before now, the seizure of Containers were the exclusive preserve of the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tincan Island and Port Area II, Onne, Rivers state , Federal Operation Units, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, Lagos, and FOU, Zone C, Owerri, Imo state, south east Nigeria . The Comptroller General of Customs Strike Force, Team A, under the close watch of Ahmadu Shuaibu, a Deputy Comptroller were said to have also made to the list with its constant seizures of Containers over alleged infraction based on the recommendation of the ICT , Unit, without mounting road blocs to stop Containers exited from the port for routine checks.
Many believe that with the six Container seizures in one swoop with the structure put on ground by Okun at the PTML terminal, fraudulent importers with their agents who are not ready to change are in trouble. They may have to decide whether to remain in the business of Clearing at the PTML or relocate to another ports or terminal within the Lagos environment where they could be accommodated.
Given an insider information about the activities of the Command in 2020, based on its mandate of ‘’revenue Collection, trade facilitation , among others, Okun had said that the Command generated N189,347,565,309.00. Recall that the Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel led NCS, Management, had given the Command a target of N238,224,920,038.88, an indication that the Command was able to achieve 79% of the target.
Many believe but for the Wuhan Town in Hebei Province of the Asian country of China emerged coronavirus, popular, COVID 19, which slowed down the global economy , for much of last year, as many shipping Companies withdrew their Container vessels from the, US, China, Europe and the North American country of the United States, US, routes, from going there to lift cargoes for fear of endangering the lives of their seamen, the Command could have overshoot its 2020 target.
However, notwithstanding the Pandemic, Okun , who could not hide his feelings disclosed that the revenue collected by the Command with the blockage of all the areas of revenue leakages at the terminal was still much better than the amount collected in 2019 when there was no global heath crisis. The Command had generated N159,336,478,193.00 in 2019. This clearly shows that that the amount collected by the Command in 2020, was N30,011,087.16 higher than the 2019 figure.
The PTML Customs Comptroller has vowed to sustain the impressive revenue performance this 2021, urging the importers to ensure that all their importations and declarations are done in ‘’strict Compliance with the extant laws of the country’’ to avoid running into trouble with his men on the Enforcement Seat. He has every reason to believe that the Command would do better this fiscal year.
Hear him: we will build and improve on our areas of strength, work on the weaknesses that had been identified in order to correct them , take opportunities right from the low hanging to the more challenging one. He has assured the importers with their agents that they have nothing to worry as the Command has ‘’put in place various measures to enhance facilitation of legitimate trade’’, meaning that genuine traders have nothing to fear