Nigeria Customs agents last weekend reacted to the decision of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to invite members of the Comptroller General’s Strike Force into the ports, saying the management of the Service should equally allow operatives of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) to come into the ports.
Describing the invitation of the CG’s Strike Force as a good development, the agents said the best is when the FOU operatives hanging around ports environment waiting for containers to seize to be allowed into the seaports.
A customs agent, Mr. Tony Ilodibe said having both CG’s Strike Force and FOU operatives inside the ports would be the best thing to happen to importers and their agents as all issues pertaining to irregularities for which the two have always impounded containers after clearance at the ports would be settled with them right inside the ports before the importers take their containers.
Ilodibe said since both Units of the Customs do not have confidence in the resident customs officers who examine and release the goods at the ports, the importers and their agents will be saved the agony of having their goods intercepted few meters away from the ports.
Another customs agent, Mr. Eric Ojobo also said that allowing the two Units into the ports will help ease the suffering importers and their agents experience on the way after containers had been released by resident customs officers inside the ports.
“If you step out of the ports with your containers, you will find operatives of the FOU at Barrack bus stop, near the Police station, they wait there to stop containers that have been cleared from the ports. If you go to Mile 2 area, Oshodi Expressway, the FOU operatives are also waiting for containers coming out from Tin Can Island port. The agent goes through another round of suffering before he/she is allowed to go with the container. Sometimes, a container not carrying contraband and cleared at the ports is seized which does not tell good of the resident customs officers. So, to me, the FOU should also be inside the ports like the Strike Force. Let the agents and importers settle everything there before the goods are allowed to leave the ports. It is better that way. Because to me, this people do not have confidence with those doing this job inside the ports, so the best is for them to be involved”.
The Customs Service had on April 25 in a circular sent to Controllers given the operatives of the Controller General of Customs (CGC) Strike Force the power to re-examine goods inside the ports and seize them if necessary.
The latest measure was seen a response complaints of interception of goods few meters away from the ports.
The circular was signed by the Deputy Comptroller General in charge of Examination, Inspection and Investigation, DCG Augustine Chidi.
The circular directed all Area Controllers to cooperate with the Strike Force team or be held accountable for issues of non-compliance.
The latest decision had to do with the failure of the resident examination officers in the ports to carry out 100 percent examination on goods before being released to importers.
Part of the circular reads: “It has been observed that 100% examination of cargo at the ports are not done properly by the officers assigned to do so.
“Consequently, the following instructions must be carried out with immediate effect and Area Controllers will personally be held responsible for non-compliance.
“Henceforth, every Area Controller must respond accordingly to Strike Force Intervention Alerts.
“The Strike Force team has been authorized henceforth to intervene right in the port and possibly make seizures where necessary without hindrance.
“Non-compliance to this circular would attract severe sanctions”.