By DAPO OLAWUNI
Several imported cargoes are currently trapped at various port terminals in Lagos over the inability of importers to link Tax Identification Numbers (TIN) generated by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to the Nigeria Customs Service due to the epileptic server of the customs.
This challenge has renewed calls on the Federal Government to build a Single Window interface between critical agencies involved in the clearance of goods from Nigerian Ports.
DAILY TREND NEWS investigations at the major ports in Lagos; Tin Can Island Port and the Apapa Premier Port revealed that, for the past two weeks, cargoes imported could not be cleared by their owners because of delay in linking their TIN numbers to Customs server.
Our correspondent learnt that prior to this time, linking TIN numbers for customs purpose was never a problem because the clearing agents always come to the rescue by using their own TIN number for their importers.
However recently, the management of the customs service had stopped the practice, saying that importers must use their personal TIN numbers.
The situation at the port have equally generated fresh knocks for Webfontane, the internet service provider for the Nigeria Customs Service.
Speaking with our correspondent at the PTML Terminal, a freight forwarder, Elder Ugochukwu Nnadi advised customs to step up and manage its own network by training officers, rather than concessioning it to service providers.
“They should license their own communication backbone and manage it, they have what it takes to do that, the Webfontane is not doing a good job.
“The lack of network in linking the TIN to the customs platform is causing delay in cargo evacuation.
Even within the customs server itself, to exit cargo from the system has been epileptic, sometimes we don’t work for a whole day.
“The problem right now is not from FIRS, the TIN numbers have been generated for more than one week now, but they cannot be linked up to the customs server. The server is epileptic across board.
“Before now, the clearing agents use their own TIN number to clear cargo on behalf of their importer, but the customs recently stopped it and insisted that importers must use their own TIN number” he said
Even though he could not give the name of the ship, Elder Nnadi also claimed that there is a ship that arrived at PTML Terminal since last week, unable to discharge its content due to congestion.
Also speaking with our correspondent, a licensed customs agent, Mr Adebowale Bare lamented that clearing agents are now paying huge demurrages as a result of the emerging congestion.
“We are paying for the problem we know nothing about, the Webfontane are making us to pay unnecessary demurrage.
“Since last week, we have been have problems with the server, the problem is general, this means it is from Webfontane.
“There is need for a functional single window that would be operated by the Ministry of Finance. It is through this window that we would generate TIN number through the FIRS server.
“Today, if we generate TIN number through the FIRS, there is problem in the activation, I have people that have generated TIN number for the past three weeks but they are unable to activate it and the job is lying down there accumulating demurrage” he said
Bare explained that without the activation of the TIN number on customs platform, no importer or agent can capture their jobs.
Spokesman for the PTML Customs Command, Yakubu Muhammed on his part exonerated the customs commands from the delays and server breakdowns, saying that the error is not from customs but from Abuja.
According to him, the server failure is currently affecting all commands of the customs service.