By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Acting Comptroller of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone ‘A’ of Nigeria Customs Service, Usman yahaya, a Deputy Comptroller, has created a Squad known as Special Weapons and Tactical Team (SWATT) which is carrying out parallel function of the FOU at the moment.
Licensed customs agents have raised an alarm that already, the activities of the Customs SWATT is hindering operations at the Lagos ports because cargoes examined by competent customs commands are being re-examined by the SWATT team at port gate.
When the squad was created months ago, the Customs said that the officers are to compliment the operations of the Unit’s roving team. But currently, the Customs have been accused of being the major cause of the port congestion being experienced at Nigerian ports.
DAILY TREND NEWS gathered from freight forwarders and customs brokers that SWATT activity is a direct duplication of the operations of the FOU Roving Team, thereby leading to indiscriminate interception of their cargoes and delay of goods already released by the same officers at the ports
Investigations carried out by our correspondent revealed that the Customs vehicles usually visit the Tin Can Port and Apapa port and intercept already cleared containers, sometimes, they release the owners after negotiations.
They are also seen ontop of the bridge at Mile 2 along Oshodi Apapa expressway, at Ijora, and visiting bonded terminals close to the port.
Speaking exclusively with DAILY TREND NEWS, Cordinator of Western Zone of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Sir John Offorbike likened the situation at the port to the multiple checkpoints suffered along the Seme Border.
“The FOU Comptroller Yayaha went and created his own unit and he called it SWATT, even though the law says Customs should stay kilometers far away from the port premises.
He said they are working under him, the normal FOU are there and he went ahead to create another SWATT headed by a there eagle officer”
“This is the same with what we experienced in Seme with multiple checkpoints, this is what is happening, whatever cargo you carry, they would tell you that you didn’t pay correctly, every cargo is a suspect”
“The CRFFN that is supposed to intervene on behalf of the freight forwarders are not doing anything, they are just packaged to make other associations look inefficient, the system is collapsing every day without any regulation or procedure”
“The port is filled to the brim, there is congestion at the port right now because of too much interference, all the bonded terminals are filled to the brim but there is no road to access them, go to TICT, Port and Cargo you would see containers stacked, when you book for your container they will tell you that they cannot find it” he said
The former Apapa Chapter chairman of ANLCA said that the port is working 24/7, but there is congestion at the port because of personal interference.
According to him, when there is an interference in the any of the freight forwarding chain, it affects other units, when a cargo is being delayed unnecessarily, it would not give room for another one to come in.
“The Customs are not mindful of cargo dwell time, they are only concerned about what comes to them”
“The level of corruption taking place in this Buhari government is alarming” he said