…Says FOU, Strike Force Units Causing Port Gridlock
By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Hadiza Bala Usman has knocked the lopsided operations of the Nigeria Customs Service at the seaports as the major cause of gridlock along the port access roads in Apapa.
Hadiza has however charged the Customs high command to automate its clearance processes to reduce human contacts and to also streamline activities of its various units including the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone A’ and the Customs Strike Force.
The NPA boss stated this last week at a Stakeholders Consultation on Ease of Shipping and Clearing of Charitable Items, an event organised by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege in collaboration with Nigerian Shippers Council.
Represented by the Lagos Ports Manager, Mrs Bola Olotu, the NPA boss condemned the multiple checkpoints mounted by Customs officers in form of units along the port corridor, she said that goods that have been dully cleared from the port are being subjected to scrutiny outside the port, thereby causing traffic gridlock.
She called on the Customs service to make good its campaign of sanctioning corrupt officers who sometimes cleared some of the questionable cargoes, she called for appropriate sanctions.
According to her, often time when a container is found wanting, Customs is always quick to arrest the clearing agents and importers without exposing the officers that appended his or her signature on the documents, releasing the cargo
Hadiza said “We kept wondering, every time we talk of none compliance, everything is always blamed on the clearing agents and the importer, but what we are asking is that, somebody signed these import documents at the port, a customs official endorsed the documents to have been in order and the goods exited the port”
“But as soon as the cargo is out of the port, there is another unit stopping people, checking the same documents and compounding the traffic situation, when this happens, the truckers are not willing to proceed in their journey, you would see them parking along the common user areas of port access road”
“Often times, when you ask them to please move, if it is an night, they wold tell you that they are prone to attacks or they would tell you they are trying to clear themselves with the next customs unit which is still ahead”
“The Customs service actually gave us explanation why they had to do that, according to them, the FOU is actually to ensure that everything is in order, they also have the strike force team”
“We now asked a question, can’t they start looking at harmonising some of these units, if there is automation, all units of the Customs would get to know what is being cleared out of the port and who signed the documents out” she said
She NPA boss appealed for the procurement of scanning machines to ease cargo examination at the Nigerian ports, even as she lamented that Nigeria cannot continue to carry out one hundred examination of consignment at the port.
“We need scanners at our ports, it would reduce some of the challenges, if we have scanners, we wouldn’t have to conduct much physical examinations and exposing Customs officers to having interface direct with those importing cargoes” she said