By Christopher Oji
Independent marketers at the Apapa and Tin Can Island seaports in Lagos have sent a distress call to the Federal Government over what they regard as the high-handedness of the Nigeria Customs Service at the ports.
The marketers claim that the activities of the Customs Service, especially of the Deputy Controller General (DCG) of Customs in charge of Trade & Tariff, has cost them a colossal sum of money which they pay as demurrage.
The independent marketers allege that the DCG unilaterally shut down bonded terminals without consideration thereby causing untold hardship and avoidable losses to the national economy. Reporters conducted around the port noticed trucks loaded with containers were still domiciled at the ports.
ln an interview, one of the union executives who spoke with reporters, under the condition of anonymity, said that the D.C.G T&T gives verbal orders without signed directives to stop operations on an allegation of unpaid assessments by several customs licensed agents and importers operating at the Lagos terminal.
They say that the DCG’s action is malicious and is frustrating their businesses.
They urged the Federal Government to wade into the matter and resolve the situation so that businesses would not be disrupted. They allege that the sudden unwarranted illegal sealing of many bonded terminal premises around the Tin Can Island and Apapa ports in Lagos has attracted avoidable demurrages
Despite the intervention of the Executive Secretary of Nigeria Shippers Council requesting for the immediate reversal of the verbal directive, including an effort to arrange for a formal meeting where facts and figures can be laid bare, bearing in mind that most of the containers have been vandalised by sea pirates, the action of the Customs Service has continued.
According to them, the unilateral decision by the DCG is tantamount to abusing the official powers which negate the official standing rules of Customs concerning the operations of Bonded Terminals Operations and independent marketers.
In the words of a marketer, ‘both the Federal Government and independent marketers are losing revenue due to the high-handedness and naked show of power maliciously by the DG.’