By DAPO OLAWUNI
Regardless of the biting congestion at the Lagos ports and the attendant traffic gridlock, the Nigeria Customs Service has suspended the evacuation of containers from the ports by barges.
In a circular signed by the Deputy Comptroller General, Enforcement, Inspection and Investigation, DCG A.Chidi, a copy of which was obtained exclusively by DAILY TREND NEWS, the Customs lamented that some importers and agents were taking advantage of this barge evacuation to divert containers to illegal warehouses.
The circular with number NCF/ENF/ABJ/058/S.23 dated 12th of March 2020 has been transmitted to all area commands, all heads of unit, sector drill commanders, federal operations units and the CGC strike force for immediate action.
The circular reads in part “The CGC is in receipt of intelligence that the use of barges to evacuate containers in and out of our ports is being abused to the extent that containers are being diverted to illegal warehouses”
“Consequently, I am directed to inform you that the use of barges to evacuate containers should stop with immediate effect”
Maritime stakeholders who reacted early to the circular argued that the Customs was stopping the use of barges for transfer of containers because it has reduced corruption and bribe taking.
“Customs are not making enough of back money because Examination and Release is taking place at barges destinations away from the anointed ones at the Bonded warehouses and the Terminals in the ports” one of them stated.
Our correspondent recalls that the Chaorman of Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Tin Can Island Chapter, Prince Segun Oduntan had in January set up a special committee which led the vanguard of evacuation of containers by barges.
The committee was made up of former chairmen of the ANLCA Tin Can Island Chapter including Prince Ozo Chukwura, Dr Kayode Farinto among others.
The committee after being inundated with series of complaints from Licensed agents and importers over the difficulty in moving containers out of the port had held various meetings with stakeholders, terminal operators, Nigerian Ports Authority, Customs and Shipping Companies.
Through efforts of the committee, stakeholders later prevailed on the terminal operators to create special access for barges at their terminal to allow decongestion of the port by removing containers by barges.
Some clearing agents who spoke with our correspondent are already warming up for a show down with the Customs in their attempt to implement the directive.
“Lets wait and see what happens by Monday, we would get a clearer view, for now the various commands have not td us anything ” one of them told our correspondent.