…Says No Container Must Stay More than 48hours
…Ejibunu Receives ANLCA Western Zone Leaders, Forms Synergy
By DAPO OLAWUNI
Apparently inundated by complaints from Nigerian importers and customs licensed agents, the Nigeria Customs Service has announced that it has unbundled the patrol teams stationed at Mile 2 area of Apapa-Oshodi expressway and the Area B axis of Apapa port.
Deputy Comptroller Hussein Kehinde Ejibunu, Controller of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone A of customs announced this on Tuesday when the Western Zone members and chairmen of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) led by their leader, Sir John Oforbike paid a working visit to his office in Ikeja, Lagos
Ejibunu said since his assumption of office at the FOU, he has directed that no container arrested must stay in detention more that 48hours, adding that there would no longer be random stopping of containers leaving the port, except those under intelligence.
DAILY TREND NEWS recalls that a customs officer attached to the FOU A team had shot a clearing agent, Mr Adeyemi Quadri at Mile 2 along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway in March 2021. The development led to a lot of criticism for the service.
The agent was shot while driving a vehicle a Toyota RAV4 2019 model, along the expressway when it was intercepted by Customs officers belonging to the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Ikeja
But while addressing the visiting ANLCA members, Ejibunu said the service under the Comptroller General, Hameed Ali (rtd) had introduced the “Three Layers of Checks” to ensure that un-customs goods never escape into Nigerian society.
“We are not saying that the other officers out there are not doing their job, but part of what this customs administration have put in place is this “three layers of checks”
“What brought that idea was the non conformity to the rules of the game, the three layers are; command level, if they cannot get it corrected, it would get to Federal Operations, apart from the Federal Operations, we have the CGC Strike Force.
“Out of these three layers of checks, whatever that is bad job is not expected to evade these three layers, and even when it does, the CEMA empowers us to enter freely, Section 146, 147, 148, 149, 150 empowers us to search anywhere, even if it is a residential place, as much as an un-custom item is dropped there.
“The officers are getting adjusted to me gradually, I have told them that I don’t want a container to stay more than 48hours. I have also done what is called unbundling of Area B and Mile 2, and I have said that containers that would be checked are the ones that we have information on, not that we would just be stopping containers randomly, this does not give us a good name.
“This is part of the mandate given to me by the CGC, he said I should make sure that what is un-customs is not done, and part of it is creating unnecessary bottlenecks for smooth transition of cargoes from the port which is against trade facilitation
“When we act as obstruction to business, it affects the economy, because the multiplier effect of what should have been inputed into the market would reduce” he stated
Ejibunu assured the ANLCA team that the customs is ready to foister collaboration with “legalised ANLCA” even as expressed shock at the recent action of some members of the association who went ahead to cast aspersions on Customs at National Assembly.
“We are not unaware of the fact that some people came here sometime ago, after haven given batches to the service, unknown to us that they even went to the National Assembly to cast aspersions on us”
He however pledged to collaborate with the visiting ANLCA team, especially in area of information sharing, saying that “Through our synergy and collaboration, you can easily alert us on anything unethical and un-custom since we cannot be everywhere at the same time
“It is true that we licensed you, but you are the ones that do the bulk of the job, don’t because of what you will benefit and take a bad job, if anybody comes to you with a bad job that would have a dent on your integrity or pedigree, just turn it down, and if you have anyway to alert us not to allow such a cargo leave the port, please do so
“Whatever challenges you have, please call me or route your challenges through the Chairman (Oforbike) I want to assure you that I will wade into it quickly” he said
Speaking in his opening address, Leader of ANLCA in the West, Sir John Oforbike noted that the visit was to create a stronger working synergy with customs, even as he laid bare some of the challenges confronting his members in the Western Zone.
He lamented that trucks seized by FOU are not released in four to five days while the truck owner would be paid per day, the labourers for unstuffing the containers would also be paid. He appealed that any container stopped and found not to contain any offensive item should be released on time to the owners.
Offorbike also urged the Comptroller to streamline the “long room” at the FOU in order to ensure that members have something to take home after clearing a container.
“We did not come here to tell you how to do your job, but to see how to help you beat the record of others, the relationship between agents and customs is like that of fish and water, we cannot do without one another
“We have taken time to visit the government warehouse and discovered multiple containers seized, not from the borders but from the port, we discovered that their is need for the FOU to continue doing its job, we are not against that” he said
While admitting that ANLCA has been plunged into a protracted leadership crisis since 2018, he expressed shock that some members of the association had gone to the National Assembly recently, trying to discredit the customs management.
Offorbike stated that any clearing agent that is criticising the operations of the FOU publicly is a criminal.
The perpetrators according to him are being sponsored by some retired customs officers who are hell bent on fighting the present administration of Col Hameed Ali.
“We refuse to be a vessel to destroying custom, because after God almighty, for us, it is the customs.
“It is not ordinary, it is people who have benefitted from the system and have retired, but they want to destroy the system, very soon we would be giving you their names.
“We cannot see anything that would harm Nigerian economy and not inform the customs, that is why we are partners in progress” he said