By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) have decided to take the destiny of its members in its hand by inaugurating a Task Force under the Western Zone Cordinator, Sir John Offorbike.
While inaugurating the task force in Apapa yesterday, Vice President of ANLCA, Dr Kayode Farinto said the essence of the task force is to expose the corruption at the port, and to address the operational challenges faced by ANLCA members in the process of clearing their cargoes from the port.
Farinto noted that the task force is long overdue, adding that presently, there is a breakdown of law and order in the Nigerian port system.
“There is a breakdown of law and order in the port system, we are like a Banana Republic now whereby everybody does what they like, there is no law, and nobody respects the law, there was a Presidential directive that during the COVID-19 lockdown, our members should not be charged for storage, but yet they were charged”
“The Zonal Coordinator gave me a heap of debit notes that were paid during the lockdown, up till now they have not paid us back”
“The issue of the zonal task force is long overdue because ANLCA members are suffering, I am delighted that the zones have woken up from their slumber.
I am delighted with the terms of reference given to the task force, it is within the ambit of the law, this task force is not composed to confront any security agency. The task force would also be constituted at other zones of ANLCA” Farinto stated
According to the ANLCA Vice President who is also a serving Governing Board member of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) the young agents have been accusing the association leadership of haven been compromised the government agencies and shipping companies but that this is not true.
“It is better late than never, we may be coming up late now, but I want to assure you that we would meet up with whatever is on ground” he said
He assured that the task force would be introduced to the Zonal Cordinator Zone A of Nigeria Customs Service, Director of SSS, Commissioner of Police Ports, and Area B’ Police.
The ANLCA Vice President also said the team would divide themselves into two shifts, worrking day and night, according to him, most of the operational challenges happens at night.
Speaking earlier, the Western Zone Cordinator of ANLCA, Sir John Offorbike said the task force is to ensure smooth operations in the zones.
He explained that already, most of the chapters have their task forces, but the zonal task force would only complement the chapters when there are issues to be addressed.
“So many things have gone wrong in the system, most expecially here in the West, the Customs have formed so many units to make sure that they check revenue leakage and to make people comply with rules and regulations”
“The officers are not following the rules given to them from the headquarters. There is a circular from the CGC that officers should not mount road blocks within 400 meters radius of the port and that if there is any, it should be dismantled within 24hours”
“But today, at every coner of the state, there are three checks of Customs where they even examine containers on the roads, most times, when the container is opened, hoodlums take advantage of this to attack our members and hijack the containers” he lamented
Offorbike who was a two-time Chapter Chairman of ANLCA at Apapa Chapter also lamented that the various commands of Customs are frustrating cargo clearance with various alerts placed on already cleared cargoes.
“Most of our members are accusing us that we have compromised and they are throwing satchet water at us, very soon they might start using stones.
So, we feel the need to set up this task force to complement the efforts of the government” he said
While reeling out the rules and regulations as well as terms of reference of the task force, he warned that the task force is not to fight anybody, or agency, but it would expose every bit of corruption taking place in the system.
“The tssk force is not to fight the customs or any other government agencies, we would make sure that they comply with the rules and regulations that sets them up”
Accordingly to Sir Offorbike, some of the major problems confronting the ports today is the stemming of containers to offdock terminals without the owners consent, and the owner is made to pay storage amd demurrage.
Speaking, he said “Some terminal operators do not have equipment to handle cargoes for delivery, we have written so many letters but nobody is acting on them, this task force would bring back our pride and expose corruption in the highest places”
“90% of cargoes coming into Nigeria all pass through the Western Zone, but all sorts of infraction is taking place here, for you to access the port, you must drop up to N300,000 settlement”
In attendance at the inauguration were all Chairmen of the ANLCA chapters in the Western Zone including; Chief Dom Obi from Apapa Chapter, Prince Segun Oduntan at Tin Can, Comrade Goddy Soleji from Kirikiri chapter.
Others are; Chairman of PTML Terminal, Elder Oluwole Obe, and Chairman of Seme Border, Barr Lasisi Fanu.
Already, Chairman of Tin Can Island Chapter, Prince Segun Oduntan have promised to make all the chapters’ buses and vehicles available for the task force, so as to take care of their logistics.
In addition to this, Sir Offorbike donated four power bikes for use of the task force, so as to beat the famous Apapa Traffic in trying to solve members challenges.
The Western Zone Task Force is headed by a team leader assisted by three heads of operations.
The Team leader in charge is Alhaji Amusa Oba, while the heads of operations are; Prince E.O Ahime, Clement Okugbe and Sanusi Kazeem. The Secretary of the Task Force is Dr Mazi Ibekwe.