By Stephen Ubanna
More facts have emerged why importers with their agents are scared about Customs Teams on the road. This is because they are no longer getting the free money they are used to with the support of their Customs Collaborators at the seaports because of multiple checkpoint on the road mounted by the various Customs teams to screen the cargoes released from the ports.
Take for instance, Tincan Island port , which used to be a centre of bad jobs through what is described in Customs quarters as , Machine Outside, MO, documents, to take delivery of goods at which had been stopped. Baba Musa Abdullahi, the Tincan Island, Area Comptroller, may have dealt a decisive blow to the fraudulent agents when he dismantled their meeting centre at the Command and turned into a Restaurant where officers and visitors could have their launch.
The fraudulent agents may have known that they are in for tough times as they could no longer cluster in one location to plot on how to take delivery of their cargo from the port without paying the appropriate duties.
The Tincan Island Customs Command boss , who was out to change the way of doing business because of the general impression that over 30 percent of the importers with their agents operating at the port were not trade compliant. He was said to have brought in Muktar Ibrahim, an Assistant Comptroller, regarded in Customs circles, as a revenue mobiliser and anti-smuggling wizard , to head the Command Compliant Unit, to stop the raketeering.
Abdullahi reportedly said that , ”if importers and exporters are compliant to the country trade rules , they won’t have problems at the seaports or when they encounter Federal Operations Unit, FOU, or Headquarters’ Strike Force personnel at the checkpoint.
Note that Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General. Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, had repeatedly said it to the hearing of people that 99 percent of the nation’s importees , both land seaports, are non trade Compliant with Customs duties and charges.
According to him, the country cannot make progress in a situation where importers and exporters are not ready to comply with the law of the land to do their transactions but always thinking on how to circumvent the law to shortchange the government.
Recall that Abdullahi had repeated complained that that traders and importers who are non trade compliant want to enjoy the full benefits of trade facilitation ”. The NCS, operate a risk based management systems , which were supposed to run on their own without any interruption from theofficers.
The Customs personnel may have interfered with the running of the systems on the orders of the Custms Comptroller General, because importers with their agents are not trade compliant .
A senior Customs officer who spoke to The Value News disclosed that why most importers with their agents may be having problem at the port or FOU and Headquarters strike on the road was because the Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA, Cap 2004, provides that certain Consignments should be scanned while some should be subjected to physical examination. It i is not surprising why most importers whose cargoes come under physical examination are usually the ones that are having problems at the port.
Abdullahi, the Tincan Island Customs boss and his Compliant team officers may have sanitised the port as traders and other importing Companies struggle to be listed among the compliant importers to enjoy the trade benefits.
For such compliant importers , they were said to have been placed on the Fast Track examination process , where cargoes are taken to their warehouses for physical examination. Companies that were said to have abused the privilege were said to have been removed from the list.
The situation was not the same at the premier port, Apapa, where most of the fraudulent importers with their agents formerly operating at Tin can Island port were said to have relocated to do their transactions, , thus abusing the clearing process at the port. The number of Containers and vehicles released from the port which had fallen into the waiting hands of the FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, Operation and Lagos Roving Team, headed by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs speaks volume.
An insider informed The Vale News , that one Ajao, a Superintendent and Head of the Command , Information Patrol Team, who has his officers stationed at the seaports , Murtala Muhammed , International Airport, MMIA, Ikeja, and the land border Areas are doing good job by working closely with the e Riks led Team through release of credible information which have assisted the members stationed along the Oshodi-Apapa Express way to intercept suspected Containers with ease.
There is hardly a day that the Mohammed Aliyu, s boys, as they are fondly called, would not transfer one suspected Container or the other to the Command . It could not be ascertained the seaport where a suspected ”40” Container loaded with banned Pharmaceutical Codeine Syrup which fell into the waiting hands of the Team was released from. As at press time , it was still a guided secret as officers maintained closed lips. Going by the CEMA rule, the Consignment would be seized as a lesson to other importers who are not trade compliant.
A source who spoke to the Magazine confirmed that the Command two ware house at Ikeja , had been s filled up with detained and seized vehicles, that the Command has started experiencing space constraint to accommodate other items.
The situation is so bad as that the Command premises has been turned into a car porch gong by the number of exotic vehicles including accidental ones parked in the premises by both the Riks led Operation and Roving team members as well as the Strike Force led by one B. Ahmed, a Superintendent of Customs, who was said to have taken over the jungles in the south west geo-political region chasing smugglers of Contrabands, vehicles and foreign parboiled rice.
The leadership of the Association of Nigerian licensed Customs Agents , ANLCA, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, and National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents,NCMDLCA, who dominate the clearing business at the seaports, Airport and land Border Areas, may have known that they have lost the battle to force Ali, the Customs boss, to dismantle the multiple checkpoints mounted on the road that that they may have shelved their earlier plan to disrupt activities at the Lagos seaports by withdrawing their services last Monday.
The aggrieved agents had identified 10 various Customs Units operating inside and outside the port . They cited the FOU, Zone A, Team. Special Force, Headquarters Strike Force, led by Abdullahi Dahiru Kirawa, a Deputy Comptroller, Information Team, Customs Police among others. They believe that the teams were obstructing trade facilitation with the administrative bottlenecks created on the road.
Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, may have ignored them because of the good jobs which he claimed, the Teams were doing on the road. This is evident going by the type of Consignments that had been discovered in some of suspected Containers that had been transferred to the Command warehouse for re-examinations as well as intercepted exotic vehicles released from the port and the unapproved routes at the land Border Area.
The Customs helmsman has every reason to ignore the agents and allow the Teams do their work on the road because of the billions of naira which had been recovered for the government which ordinarily could have entered into private pockets.