Customs: PTML Makes Its First Major Container Seizures In Six Years And Collects An Impressive Revenue In 2020 Despite COVID 19

Stephen Ubanna

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.   

Okun: PTML Comptroller

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.

Grimaldi Lines discharges Containers At PTML

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

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