By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has been inaugurated as an ambassador of War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) even as the association have called on NDLEA for corperation and working relationship.
Speaking during a visit of NDLEA management to its National Secretariat in Amuwo Odofin Lagos on Tuesday, the Vice President of ANLCA, Dr Kayode Farinto said that many clearing agents are languishing in NDLEA detention over seizures of drugs at the port.
According to him, clearing agents are not importers of the drugs, hence they should be given Indemnity from such manhandling and subjection to criminal treatments.
Farinto said ANLCA under the leadership of its National President, Tony Iju Nwabunike, the association has declared zero tolerance on any member facilitating importation or clearance of psychotropic drugs throughout the ports.
He called on the agency for periodic sensitization and training of members on the various schedules of the NDLEA.
“We have sent words to our members not to be part of clearing psychotropic substance from our seaports as patriotic citizens. I want to assure you that you have our cooperation as the umbrella body of licensed customs agents in the country”
“NECOM is having zero tolerance to any agent facilitating clearance of any psychotropic drugs, we are ready to partner with you.
“Without sensitization, agents could be clearing these substances unknowingly.
If a hard drug is found at the port today, the first person to be arrested is the agent. We want a relationship with you, such that if such situation happens, we as an association can come in, once we can vauge for that agent, he should be able to produce the importer”
“Our members suffer a lot, the last drug that was arrested in Apapa, the agent was taken to Abuja from one intelligence office to another, one of the official is now dead because of the treatment metted out to them” he lamented
Also speaking, Chairman of Tin Can Port Chapter of ANLCA, Mr Ojo Akintoye said most of ANLCA members needs to be impacted with knowledge of the various drugs in importation across the country.
“If there could be a periodic sensitization or workshop where you would tell us about the prohibited hard drugs and what they look like so that we don’t fall victim of their importation”
“When we have a bill of Laden, as a clearing agent, it is said to contain, we were not there when they were loading these cargoes, we don’t know anything about it. As a middle man between importers and the government, we only come in to do our job, but unfortunately we are the first suspect and we suffer for what don’t know about”
“We are pleading that we should be free from all these challenges” he stated
Responding, Mr Bashir Gazama, the Area Commander of Apapa Port of NDLEA who led the team on behalf of his Chairman, Alhaji Buba Marwa said the agency is ready to interact more with ANLCA in order to cover the seeming communication gap.
“I agree with you that most of the times, the agents are the victims, but I must also tell you that some of the agents are careless, unprofessional and greedy, they are disregarding all the professional measures.
“One of the cases we have at hand now, a lot of agents have been arrested, and if you listen to the story, it is so pathetic, some of them met importers online who sublet the job to them” he said
He urged Nigerian clearing agents to carryout safety measures such as KYC (know your customer) before engaging in any import.
He said NDLEA is ready to partner with ANLCA to interact and sensitize its members.
“We are here on behalf of our chief executive to reach out to critical stakeholders that we know can help us do our work, both in the port, and in the community where they stay”
“There is a new direction to the drug war, it is no longer the sole responsibility of NDLEA, it is now a collective responsibility. Our new leadership recognised the fact that everybody needs to buy-in into what NDLEA is doing and own it”
“This is why we are here to inaugurate ANLCA as WADA ambassador”
“WADA (War Against Drug Abuse) is a project that was developed by Buba Marwa, it was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 26th 2021”
“The whole idea is that we have more people at the grassroot level to work against drug abuse, we know that arrest and prosecution alone would not solve the problem”
The highpoint of the visit was the decoration of the ANLCA Vice President to represent the National President as WADA Ambassador for NDLEA.