How Customs Police Obstructs Trade Facilitatation

By Stephen Ubanna

 In spite of the Complaints by importers with their clearing agents over too many Customs checkpoints along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway  which delays the movement of cargoes that exited the seaports to their warehouses  the Customs Police, appears to have created their own checkpoint to check import documents.

An agent who spoke to The Value News on condition of anonymity said there was no basis  for the Customs police officers to be found on the road competing with the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone  A,  Operations and Lagos Roving team, headed by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent  and the Lagos Zonal Command of the Headquarters’ Strike Force, headed by Salisu Shuaibu,  to importers’ documents of their cargoes exited from the port .

The agent noted that the Customs police, which was patterned after the military police was created by  Ali, the Comptroller General as an internal mechanism  to check and ensure discipline among Customs personnel and not to check import documents of cargoes that had exited the ports or land border areas.

The Customs police officers, the Customs boss had said were trained  at the Nigeria military police college, Zaria, Kaduna state in order to keep to their mandate of maintaining discipline in the Service. Many believe that the Customs police officers may have opted to create checkpoints along the busy Oshodi- Apapa road because of the pecuniary gains and to intimidate the agents to do their biddings.

 The bad aspect of the officers, according to the agent was that they make too much financial demand  before allowing them to proceed with their Container to the client’s ware house.

Eyewitness account at their check on the busy Oshodi-Apapa disclosed that they intimidate the agents by making them understand that  the bulks stop on their table as anyone of them could be arrested  at any time if found wanting  as a way of forcing them to comply to their demand. Many believe that the Customs police officers may be acting out a script from their sponsors at the Customs Headquarters and the Zonal office to be on the road to check import documents without invitation of Mohammed Aliyu, Comptroller, Fou, Zone or Abdullahi, Kerewa, a Deputy Comptroller and Coordinator of the Strike Force ,to go after a particular importer or agent over an infraction of the government fiscal policy.

Mohammed Aliyu: Comptroller, FOU Zone A

The worry of agents was that they are very aggressive when checking import documents presented to them as demanded. This is where Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and the Customs Comptroller General may have to intervene to call the Customs Police officers to order before they make nonsense of his good intensions of creating the Unit.

Even when the FOU  was the only Command which mounted checkpoints  along the busy Oshodi- Apapa-Express Way and other major roads, in within the port environment in the past, Importers with their agents had never ceased from complaining asking for the withdrawal of some of the teams over allegations that they were obstructing trade.

Note that Ali, the NCS, boss, may not have listened to their cry with the on-going reform of the reform of the Service to reduce the number of Customs Checkpoints on the Oshodi-Apapa busy road and other strategic roads within the Lagos metropolis.

Going by the mandate given to the Strike Force and the appointment of Abdullahi Kirawa, a Deputy Comptroller, as the Coordinator  and the  subsequent deployment of Salisu Shuaibu, an Assistant Comptroller as the Lagos  Zonal Commander, the number of checkpoints on the road may have increased by lips and bounds. At the instance of Kerewa, the Lagos Zonal Command , headed by Salisu Shuaibu , had mounted their own checkpoints to compliment the efforts of the FOU, Zone A, officers.

John Ukachukwu. a Lagos based agent  said they were not bothered with the FOU or the Headquarters’ checkpoint on the road because they were trained enforcement officers to checkmate the movement of cargoes in and out of the nation’s seaports and land border areas to ensure they complied with the government fiscal policies.

Ukachukwu noted that the FOU, Zone A, operations and Lagos Roving  team including the Lagos Zonal Command of the headquarters Strike Force are combining well on the road because they know what they are doing. He confirmed that importers with their agents who had connived with Customs officers at the port take delivery of Containerised cargoes or vehicle imports at the port or the  bonded terminals  and who had  escaped the eagle eye of the Shuaibu’s officers on the road have not been lucky with the FOU team. It was not surprising why the FOU, Zone A, warehouses are filled up with intercepted Containers that there no more available space to keep Containers .

investigation by the Value News shows that since the Customs Police officers started mounting their own checkpoints on the Oshodi-Apapa road, they have never intercepted any Container or  vehicle  but the FOU Zone A patrol team, with the support of the Information Patrol Unit, headed by Superintendent Ajao, and the Lagos Zonal Command Strike Force had continued to intercept Containers suspected of infraction which were transferred to the Command warehouse or detained.

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