Protest: Unusual Time for Ali As NAGAFF Writes Minister Over A $176 billion Projected 20- Year period, Revenue Target For Customs

By Stephen Ubanna

This is not the best of times for Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service., NCS. This is because the Leadership of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, National Council of Managing Director of Licensed Customs Agents, NAMDLCA, Tin-can Island and Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, Chapters, had mobilised their members to ground the port and terminal Operations.

PTML Terminal Car Park At The Port

  The agents had grounded Operations at the Tin Island port under the close watch of Comptroller Adekunle Oloyede and PTML, which has Comptroller Felix Okun, as the Area Comptroller, to protest against   the implementation of the Federal government newly introduced Vehicle Identification Number, VIN, Valuation System policy. The agents may not have found the policy which is expected to reduce Customs personnel  and importers with their agents  interaction at the ports to process their documents to facilitate   delivery of their cargoes may not have  found it funny as they are already used to trade malpractices and how to penetrate the ranks of Customs personnel at the Valuation Seat and terminals   to get their goods out. 

Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, that the use of discretional powers by Officers to assess imported vehicles  which differe at the ports was making the government lose billions of  naira annually that he had supported the introduction of the VIN, which was endorsed in turn by the minister and finally approved by the Federal Executive Council. 

  With the VIN the agent, armed with the Bill of Laden of the  vvehicle importis  expected to  make a self –assessment of the client’s car  imports and make the necessary  e-payment the NCS , Account with the bank in order to take delivery of their Consignmen at the port.

The  aggrieved  agents may have started the protest at Tin can Island PTML,  which have RORO , facilities where the imported vehicles for sale in the  Nigerian market are discharged and cleared  to force President Muhammdu Buhari , a retired Army General, to intervene and reverse the policy to end the week-long protest.

Agents Storm PTML And Tin can Island Port To Protest Against Introduction And Implementation Of VIN At The Ports By NCS

 Some of the aggrieved agents who spoke to The Value News disclosed that  the Authorities at the two Commands had forced them to take the extreme action of grounding operations at the Tin can Island port  and PTML,  due  to their inability  to  get the Customs management to put the necessary structures in place  in order to ensitise stakeholders about the new policy.

 They noted  that  the VIN Valuation system as it stands now cannot  generate  accurate  value payable  on imported vehicles.  They were said to have complained to the hearing of Ali, the Custom Comptroller General about the depreciation  value  in the valuation  being issued on the imported vehicles being cleared at Five star Terminal, in Tin can Island port and PTML, and other ports, across the country, but that was how far they could. Note that issue of the VIN, between the Customs and the Agents, have been on since 2021.

Many believe that the protest which had dragged on  for almost a week could not have degenerated to the current  level of ‘’no work’’,  if Comptrollers Oloyede, of Tin-can island Command, who is an Information Communication Technology, ICT, guru, and Okun, his counterpart at PTML, were proactive in taking decision to calm the aggrieved agents instead of responding only  when the Leadership of the various Associations of had dragged out their members  to  protest against the implementation of the VIN .

The protest may have turned violent at the Tin-can Island port roundabout on Monday, February 20, 2022, when one of the anti-riot policeman dispatched to the scene to disperse the aggrieved agents tried to cork his gun to scare the crowd but was unlucky as he was grabbed and given a beaten of his life.  The Magazine’s attempt to take   pictures of the scene was met with stiff resistance. ‘’if you don’t leave here now, we smash your android phone’’, they thundered. 

compt. Oloyede: Facing The Heat Of Protesting Agents At Tin-can Island Port

A visitor to  the Tin-can Island port and PTML, which used to be a beehive of activities would be surpised how it has become a shadow of itself as both economic and socials services have been grounded to a halt. Many Companies operating at the port environment whose personnel could not assess the port for fear of falling into the  waiting hands of the protesting agents  whose rank have been  infiltrated by the Area boys were said to have returned home.

 The Protesting agents at the Tin-can Island port and PTML, were said to have made effort to extend the protest  to Apapa port,  and onne port respectively.Comptroller Malanta Yusuf, the Area Comptroller of Apapa Command  and awwal Mohammed, his Counterpart  at Port Harcourt Area II, overseeing the Onne port over seeing the port including the  Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, KLT, phases I&II, Area Comptroller were proactive in taking decision to douse  tension in their areas of Jurisdiction.

A source told The Magazine, that Comptroller Yusuf,had held  a closed door meeting with the Chapter Executives  of the various Agents Associations at the  port  on Wednesday, February, 22, 2023, to rub mind, on how to ensure that normal work continues at the port without any interruption.

 The source, disclosed that the Heads of the Enforcement, Valuation, Customs Intelligence, CIU, Imports and Exports, Seat were at the meeting, which was very revealing. The Apapa based agents may h been convinced that there was no basis to join the protest when the Customs Comptroller, put the card on the table with  a hold bar. They were aid to have made their own contributions on how to ensure the smooth Operation of the port without any disruption

Compt. Yusuf: Area Compt. Apap Customs Command

A visitor to the port on Thursday, February, 23, 20222, could see the agents doing their normal clearing business and finally moving to the terminals to position their Containers for examination and release and loading in the stationed truck to exit the port. Truck s laden with empty Containers and trucks entering the port premises to load Containers at APM terminal, described as one of the biggest Container Terminals in the West African sub-region were also sighted around the port exit gate.

 Even the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, which have a working relationship with the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, to take  empty Containers to the Apapa port, did not fail s they continued to do so. This is where Comptrollers Yusuf of Apapa Command and Mohammed, PortHarcourt, Area II, needed to be given kudos for their Administrative ingenuity of being proactive to address crisis situations.

 The worry of maritime analysts was that if the crisis at the Tin-can Island port and PTML, are not quickly resolved , it would  affect the two Commands  monthly  revenue collection and the service in general. The government had set a N2.2 trillion , non-oil revenue target for the Customs, in the  2022, fiscal year, which which was,  increased by the Management to N4.1 trillion, it may be realised.

Aware of the threat  of the agents protestto their monthly revenue collection may have informed  why the duo, Comptrollers Oloyede and Okun, of Tin can and PTML, respectively, are leaving no stone to bring the situation under control. The duo  were said to have opened a channel of  discussion  with the Leader of ANLCA, NAGAFF, NAMDLCA and other Associations

  While the agents  have picked holes with the introduction and implementation of the VIN Valuation system policy, another major crisis appears to be  brewing at the port over the projected $176 billion revenue target for the service over a 20 year period by the government.

 For the realization of the revenue target, the FEC, at its rrecent meeting Chaired by the Katsina state born Nigerian President,   were said to have approved $3.1 billion Customs modernization project.

The Leadership of NAGAFF,  which  had expressed its disgust on the planned Customs modernization project  were said to have written Hajia Zainab Ahmed, minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning,’’ to know the applicable indices and parameters used in arriving  at the  projected  $176 billion over a 20-year  period.

Recall that in 2020, the FEC,  the approved  the contract sum of $18.12 million  or N255 billion for the acquisition  of three Rapiscan  Cargo Mobile  Scanners which was said to have been won by  Messrs Airwave Limited.

Another  contract sum of N280,992,888.75, inclusive of Value Added Tax, VAT,  was said to also been  approved and the contract awarded to  Messrs  C.Y. West Africa Limited  for supply   of five units of fast Ballistic  Reverie Assault Boats/ five units  of Patrol Boats with assorted accessories. The worry of the Association was that between 1979 and now, the government had continued with an endless modernization of the Customs Operations with no solution in sight.

 They had  alldued to the fact that in the 1996 reform,  which was backed up by Decree No.11 of 1996,  the Pre-ship,ent Inspection Companies, COTECNA and two others, were paid  between the sum of $70 million to $75 million  year, which was said to have escalated trade malpractices at the port: wrong classification, false declaration, under payment and Concealment while the Customs was paid  less than 1 billion yearly.

The Association had cited had alluded to the  Olusegun Obasanjo Administration  and Messrs  COTECNA Inspection SA on provision, installation  and Operation  of 14 X-ray scanners on Build, Operate, &Transfer, BOT, basis, at prescribed  locations across the country  to scan all imports coming  into the country through the seaports and the approved  Land border areas between 2003 and 2013.

The contract was said to have  also covered the training  of some 50  Customs Officers  on the Computerised  Risk Management System, CRMS and who in turn will train 500 other Officers within the 10 year contract period of the contract .

NAGAFF, had aid  said in the Letter seent  to Hajia Ahmed, the Finance minister that the implementation of the deal was marred  with several ‘’flaws and compromises’’, meaning that there would not be any difference with the implementation of the  newly introduced VIN Valuation system policy.   This is where Aajia and Ali, the Comptroller, have to prove the agents, before dragging the economy back to mud.                             

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *