…We are at Risk, Importers, Agents Cryout
By DAPO OLAWUNI
There is palpable tension among importers and freight forwarders at the various vehicle importing terminals at Tin Can Island Port over the sudden presence of hoodlums on Mile 2-Apapa Oshodi expressway collecting money with force on vehicles cleared from the port.
Already, there is an existing agency of the Lagos State Government, Wharf Landing Fee Collecting Authority, collecting such moneys on imported vehicles, they are also stationed on the port access roads.
However, this new group, allegedly with backing of Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police, wield weapons, sticks and all dangerous weapons to collect money from vehicles leaving the port.
The fees range from N200 to N500 depending on how expensive and exotic the brand of vehicle is.
Failure to pay this money, the drivers of the vehicle and the clearing agents are mercilessly beaten, while the vehicle is damaged.
When our correspondent visited the port, there are more than five checkpoints where these moneys are being collected between Tin Can Port and 2nd Rainbow bus stop along Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.
The most notorious of the checkpoints is the Mile-2- Fatgbems bus stop, where the hoodlums even carryout robberies at night.
Chairman of the Lagos State Wharf Landing Collecting Authority, Mr Moshood Salvador while responding to questions told DAILY TREND NEWS that his officials are not part of this new anomaly.
While exonerating the wharf landing fee officials and debunking insinuations in some quarters that the agency engaged the hoodlums, he said most of the staff members of the agency are graduates.
“We don’t use touts and our staff members don’t carry any sticks or weapons to collect the Wharf Landing Fees. We do not have touts on the road”
“We encourage consignees to pay in the office or transfer into designated bank accounts. However, we have our staff on the road who void the tickets already used to prevent a re-use”
“Also, importers of single consignments who find it difficult coming to the office willingly pay for such single unit on the road. But we are aware that there are some non-state actors who wear yellow vests while extorting tanker and trailer drivers. Some rob outrightly at night”
“You may wish to confirm from FLOURMILLS, BUA, HONEYWELL, CROWN FLOUR, DANGOTE GROUP and all petroleum depots the mode of payment of Lagos State Wharf Landing Fees” he said
Also speaking with our correspondent, Chairman of PTML Chapter of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Elder Oluwole Obey said clearing agents and importers are at risk and their lives are in danger.
According to him, the touts waylaid vehicles while the Army or Police give them backing.
“We know those boys with the army and the Nigerian Police, maybe they are working for them, I don’t know, but I usually see them with different kind of weapons, if you fail to give them money, they would destroy your car, and the Army and Police would be there looking with their gun”
“The boys collect between N200 and N500 on every imported vehicle that passes through the port access road. This is even higher than what the Wharf Landing Fee Agency collects for the Lagos State Government”
“We don’t know why this money is being collected, the uncompleted road is further encouraging this anomaly. Whenever we are clearing cargoes from the port now, we are at risk because of these bad boys”
“We are at risk because we cannot risk our lives because of N200 or N500, so, we have to continue giving them the money or else they damage your vehicle or even damage you the owner”
When asked if the association has documented and registered their complaints with the appropriate authorities, he said “When you see a Nigerian Army or Police working with these boys, who do you expect us to complain to?
Also speaking with our correspondent, a licensed customs agents, Mr Francis Aniezechukwu said the freight forwarders have been overwhelmed by the challenge of various extortions going on around the port.
He confirmed that ANLCA at PTML Chapter had constituted a committee called the Association Task Force Committee which has set out several days to go and disperse these hoodlums, but because they have the backings of the Army and the Police, there is little or nothing the association could do.
“On several occasions, committees have been set up led by the Chairman himself, so it’s not as if actions are not being taken, but when the constituted authorities failed to live up to their responsibilities, there is nothing the agents and importers can do, they are the government agencies saddled with this responsibility”
“We cannot continue to risk the life of our members, if we issue directives that agents should stop paying, these boys break windshields and wield weapons”
“We have brought the issue to the authorities, the Nigerian Ports Authority is aware, the Army Authorities, the Police Force are all aware of what is going on” he said
Another port stakeholder who spoke with DAILY TREND NEWS, Asiwaju Bolade Oladipo Lawrence expressed sadness that there are no longer constituted authorities around Nigerian ports and everyone is having a field day.
He said “When you are aggrieved, you are supposed to go to the Police, but it is surprising to note that these boys are being supported by the police, they are not working alone”
Bolade noted that the uncompleted Tin Can Port access road is further fueling all the illegal checkpoints and collections around the port.
“One obvious thing however is that, if there is no traffic gridlock on that road, such a collection would not be going on” he said