Customs: AMTO: Battles To Get their Detained Trucks Detained Released

By Stephen Ubanna

For much of 2017 and now, officials of the Association of Maritime Owners, AMATO, led by Remi Ogungbemi, the national president, haven been  holding series of meetings  with the Customs Authorities to facilitate the release of their trucks  detained in in various Federal Operation Units, FOU, across the country.

 Investigation by The Value News shows that there are over  100 of such AMATO  trucks currently been detained  in  FOUs Zone A, Ikeja, south west geo-political region, Kaduna, Zone B,  north west, Owerri, Zone C, sou-south, and Bauchi, Zone D, north east.

Remi Ogungbemi: President AMATO

 It was learnt that most of the trucks had been had been intercepted and detained at FOU, Zone A, Mechanical workshop, turned government warehouse and thee  old Government Ware House used  by the Command to  keep such intercepted trucks laden containers in the past because of the volume of the volume of import through the Lagos seaports, particular, Apapa, Tincan  island and Port Multi-services terminal , limited, PTML.

 The bad news was that most of the arrested trucks were found to have carried Conatainerised Cargoes  from China, India and Turkey. It is not surprising why the Customs  Authorities after profiling the importers and found to have been involved in making false declarations  not paying the appropriate duty for their imported Consignment had been a searchlight on  imports from such countries over the years. This  may have informed why most of the AMATO  drivers are having problem  with FOU or Customs adhoc team   on the road.

 The Customs Authorities have every reason to keep the AMATO intercepted in the premises   over alleged  contravention of government fiscal policies  as they could not claim that they  did not know  what is loaded in the Container laden in their truck, an indication that they have themselves to be Compromised by the importer with his Clearing Agent.

 The Value News  findings shows  that past and present Management of Customs  had made several attempts to invite the leadership of the Association to various Customs  Conferences across the country to enlighten them on the sections of the Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA,  that   dwell extensively on trucks  laden Containers and what to happens to the truck if it was found to be carrying Container which  content were falsely declared by  the importer.

 The Law ,  according to Customs sources, was very clear on this: both the truck and the Container   were liable to seizure. It was not surprising why there are several trucks in FOU premises across the country awaiting for Court condemnation to be converted to government property.

The initial quarrel of  AMATO with the Customs Authorities was why their trucks  hired out to clearing  Agents to deliver their importers Container in their  various warehouses  across the  country could be seized  over alleged false  declaration of the Consignment  while the ships belonging  to the shipping  Companies that brought the Consignment were  allowed to leave country’s seaports unquestioned.

 The Association members were said to have also queried the Customs for not arresting those that loaded the Containers into the Ship instead of  taking  over their trucks when the  drivers knew nothing about what  they were carrying.

AMATO officials may have seen reason why they should make peace with the Customs Authorities to facilitate the release of the truck  or risk  losing the detained trucks to government  as it had Contravened the CEMA Act. This may have informed why Ogungbemi  and other members of the national Executive of AMATO are now courting the friendship of the Customs  Authorities to soften the ground  in order to facilitate the release of the trucks, as many of them  were said to have lost  thousands  of naira over the last two  years for  not putting their trucks to work.

The two parties may have reached a truce as the Customs Authorities were said to have promised to have promised to release the detained trucks. That much was confirmed by Ogungbemi, the AMATO, President.

 Maritime watches believe that  the Customs Authorities had succeed in drumming into their mind  set that their enemy are the importers with their Clearing Agents and the Customs who are only implementing the Law to generate revenue for the government  from non -Oil imports.

 Appealing to the importers and their Customs Collaborators to make correct declaration in order to make the appropriate  duty payment to get out of Customs trouble, he opined that that is the only way they would stop  endangering their truck which is their only source of income.

Many believe that the leadership of  AMATO May not be able to control the activities of members as they do not know the actual membership of the Association .  Recall, that the AMATO  National president had once described the Association  as a Political party with ‘’free entry and free exits’’.  

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