…Pandemonium As Clearing Agents, Officers Clash At TICT, Port& Cargo Terminals
By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Tin Can Island Command of the Nigeria Customs Service has intercepted two Toyota Hillux armored trucks which were imported without the required End User Certificates.
This is even as clearing agents on Tuesday clashed with customs officers at TICT Terminal and eventual closedown of activities at Ports and Cargo Terminals over alleged High handedness and extortion from officers.
In the past three weeks, the Tin Can Customs command has made series of seizures of Colorado Cannabis drugs, Codeine, arm and ammunition and other dangerous and controlled substances.
Speaking exclusively with DAILY TREND NEWS, Public Relations Officer of the command, Mr Uche Ejesieme said these series of seizures has led to frustrations of some disgruntled elements at the command and this was what sparked off the clash between the clearing agents and officers.
Speaking on the seized Toyota Hillux trucks, Ejesieme said there has been pressures from certain quarters on the Customs Area Controller, Compt Musa MBA to release the vehicles without due process, not minding the prevailing insecurity in the country.
Clearing Agents who spoke with DAILY TREND NEWS correspondent at the port yesterday alleged that a senior officer at the port, DC Ayo was extorting agents for bribe, even after they have paid all required dues.
According to them, the agents could no longer bear the oppression, hence they revolted and this led to an attack at customs office at TICT Terminal, while Ports and Cargo Terminal was shutdown since yesterday afternoon as a result of the tension.
But, speaking, the Customs PRO said “For the past few weeks, we have had an increase in seizure of Colorado Cannabis, we have also had issue of two armoured Toyota Hillux trucks that were supposed to come with end user certificates but they didn’t come with it, we have also had seizures of Codeine and other controlled substances coming in as if they are not controlled”
“Deputy Comptroller Ayo is one of the best hands in the service who has imported her wealth of experience from Command and Staff College, Gwadalada Abuja to Tin Can Port.
“What has aggravated this tension is some of the seizures she has made in that terminal in the past few weeks, from the Colorado she made in conjunction with NDLEA
“There is also tension on the two Hillux trucks, the Area Controller is being pressured to release them without due diligence, armored vehicles are supposed to have end user certificates but this one does not have it, and there are so much pressure from some quarters for us to circumvent the process, this cannot happen, not even at this time that the world is going through security challenges
“We are trying to cut off the supply of these illicit imports and some people who are not ready to comply with the guidelines are triggering the tension.
“They are now beginning to feel that we are closing the gap in some of the areas they hitherto commit infractions.
The seizures has sparked frustrations from freight forwarders, once we do the right thing, nobody takes it kindly
“They have been defrauding the government and now they resulted to self help, for us, it is an infringement of section 11 of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) Cap C45 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which talks about obstruction of officers” he said
According to the customs image maker, there would be dare consequences for the clearing agents who perpetrated the attacks because they resulted into self help, breaking office glasses, destroying infrastructures, obstructing officers from doing their job, and embarrassing senior officers.
He advised stakeholders to take advantage of the Dispute Resolution Committee which is existing at the command whenever they feel they have a challenge, instead of resulting to self help.
“Once you do the right thing, no officers would take advantage of you, the service has zero tolerance for noncompliance, if you comply and an officer is still trying to extort you, the customs service has an internal mechanism to address such.
The only problem is that we dont advertise the number of office that have been sanctioned.
“We feel thoroughly embarrassed at the attitude of the clearing agents, dont forget that we licensed these people, for someone you licensed to come and constitute nuisance in your environment is embarrassing, it simply means that someone is pushing them to do these things.
“We are not going to fold our hands or take it lightly, we are going to investigate and make sure the culprits are apprehended” Ejesieme assured
Speaking with DAILY TREND NEWS earlier, the clearing agents lamented and alleged that Tin Can Customs, especially DC Ayo was collecting bribes and milking agents dry.
According to the agents who peaded anonymity, there are too many tables at the command which bribes are collected, including Vehicle Releasing Tables.
“The crisis was sparked as a result of bribes being collected by customs at Tin Can Island Port, it was sparked up at TICT T1 and T2, after paying customs duty and other necessary dues, the officer, DC Ayo still demand for money and this was cause of the fracas”
“The money they are collecting from us is illegal and unreceipted. It was a bottled up anger, it was not just the incident of today.
“Customs are pushing us to the wall, they squeezed us so much that, we don’t take anything home after clearing any cargo
“At Port and Cargo Terminal, the same thing happened. We have now shut down the terminal because there was tension at the port, the glasses of the customs office have been destroyed.
Our correspondent gathered that in the cause of the commotion, the Enforcement Unit of customs was called in and a teargas was fired.
One of the clearing agents was reportedly injured in the process of guiding an officer from being attacked.
No arrest was made, even as a meeting with all the Deputy Comptrollers of the command have been reportedly scheduled for 10am today with the agents.
Meanwhile the National Executive of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) have condemned the heinous crime and attack on Customs officers by elements which it described as unknown to the association.
National Secretary of ANLCA, Alhaji Babatunde Mukaila told DAILY TREND NEWS that the association is ready to get to the root of the matter and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
Mukaila said the National officers or chapter officer of ANLCA would condole an attack on an officer of the Federal Government.
He urged the customs to work with ANLCA in ridding the ports of unwanted elements milling into the port on daily basis without any genuine reason.