Steve Agbota and Uche Henry
Clearing agents operating at the Western Zone – Apapa and Tin-Can Island have issued a 72 hours ultimatum to the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col Hameed Ali, to address the duplication of clearance processes at the seaports or risk a mass action that would precipitate a shutdown of the port by next week Monday.
At a joint press briefing held in Apapa yesterday, various associations which include Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), and National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), lamented that the Customs boss had allegedly deployed a team from Abuja to checkmate activities of the various commands at the western zone, which is slowing down Customs clearance.
The freight forwarders identified ten various units of customs constituting bottlenecks inside the port, including; CG Strike Force, Compliance Team, Federal Operations Unit, Monitoring, Special Force, CG Task Force, and Information Team, among others. The latest development which spiked tension in the port was the recent deployment of a special team from Abuja to inspect 3rd party cargoes at the port.
Speaking at the meeting, Tin Can Chapter Chairman of ANLCA, Prince Segun Oduntan, said the CG committee was sent to Apapa port last week Thursday under the guise of inspecting some third party containers. He however said that the team has taken over the job of resident customs officers.
He cargoes are now being detained inside the ports while agents are made to pay exorbitant demurrage to terminal operators.
While stressing that 24 hours cargo clearance is now a mirage, the ANLCA boss said 24 hours cargo clearance is now a mirage.
Also speaking, Western Zone Coordinator of NAGAFF, Alhaji Tanko Ibrahim, said that agents have complained to the customs area controllers who appeared powerless and subsequently directed the operators to channel their complaints to the CG in Abuja.
Tanko alleged that “Last week, we saw officers from Abuja who said they were sent to the terminals to inspect some third party containers. But since then, they have remained permanent inside the port.”