Apparently concerned about the recent increase in drug bursts by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) around Apapa premier port, the Chairman of Apapa Chapter of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Chief Dom Onyeka has revealed that the association is partnering with the Nigeria Customs Service at Apapa Command in order to sensitize members on the need to be wary and protect themselves from illicit imports.
Chief Onyeka in this interview with DAILY TREND NEWS also spoke on sundry issues bothering on the crisis currently rocking ANLCA, even as he narrated how recent attempts to hijack Apapa Chapter from under him by some persons appointed by the court-suspended National Executive Committee (NECOM) headed by Hon Tony Iju had failed woefully
Sir, what is the relationship like between ANLCA and Apapa Customs?
The Area Comptroller of Nigeria Customs at Apapa premier port, Compt Yusuf Malanta is a seasoned officer, he grew from the ranks to the position he is right now, he has served in many capacities, he has acted as APM, TS and so on. He is a thorough officer that knows all sides of the Job.
He is equally very prompt, if you discuss any issues concerning your members, he quickly does it, several times I would call him on phone or send him messages, before I know it, the matter would be resolved.
So, for me, I think he is doing well and that’s why the command is making progress without any noise, there is a synergy between him, the agents and officers.
How do you describe the compliance level in Apapa port, considering the recent rise in drugs importation and NDLEA seizures from there?
It is the importers that does importation and not the agents, what happens is that, if you watched the story of the drugs that have been coming into the port, they come in through unorthodox ways by hiding it under the ship, or in compartment of the ship, they are always trying to find new means of shipping their drugs. But now that they have seen that Apapa is so clean, you can see the rate of seizure, obviously they would stop.
I have just had a discussion with the CAC in Apapa on the need to sensitize our members, we need to have a seminar for our members to be aware and educated, in conjunction with NDLEA and Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) in knowing exactly how to detect and know exactly what to do in order to prevent themselves getting into trouble with this Web of arrests.
Some of the agents do not know what the importer has in the container or shipment.
The CAC has asked us to go and organise it and that he would give us resource persons. Lately, we discuss with APMT Terminal too on the need for the seminar, once we gather the neccessary resources, we would bring our members together in a forum where we shall discuss with them and educate them properly, so that no one would run foul of the law.
As the incumbent Chairman of ANLCA in Apapa, when is your tenure elapsing?
Because of the crisis in ANLCA, our tenure got extended in order to be able to create room for reconciliation, so that the next election can be done, otherwise, I would have finished my tenure by January 28th 2022, but as it is, I am running an extension to be able to create room for reconciliation.
Last week, we got a report of an attempt to unseat your taskforce in Apapa?
We got the rumor that there were intentions of some people to disturb our seat, when we got the information, we quickly wrote to the commissioner of police in Apapa port, and equally the DPO and DSS, alerting them that some people who were appointed by the National Executive Committee have intentions to disturb our activities.
When we first got the report, I called the Chairman of the other parallel body and I told him that I heard what his campt is planning, I asked him to check out.
The guys whose names were mentioned in the reports have been called for questioning by the DPO and they have made statements.
How has factionalisation affected business in Apapa port
It has adversely affected operations, officers are taking us for a ride, you cannot speak so much for your association, if you try to, the officers would think you are trying to oppress them, sometimes they even ridicule us, but I know it is not their fault, it is because of the internal crisis in ANLCA.
The customs officers also know what is happening because when we were together, we were formidable and strong, they were not able to break into us then.
But today, if you go for cargo examination at Apapa Port today, people who are not supposed to be in the port are all there, dictating their tune of what they want to do, everybody does whatever he likes, and you see the members living like orphans because there is no protection, if I show you my working papers today, you would see that all the jobs I have been doing since last year are being done at a lost, if you collect money from your clients, you end up spending the whole money with customs, if not the cargo would not leave the port.
This is what has been happening since the crisis. I pray that there would be a way out, because none of us like it.
Many of the other freight forwarding associations do not equally want ANLCA to be one.
Apart from ANLCA Taskforce team, we also have the NAGAFF Compliance Team in Apapa
The compliance team of NAGAFF have been there but unluckily they were just making noise because if they actually want to carryout compliance, they should go to the traders zone where the importers are, example is Trade fair, Alaba market and so on, and inform them of the policies and expectations of the government, but in this situation, they only stay at the port to intimidate customs officers. I don’t know why ANLCA which is the mother of all associations should now go and copy such a hateful approach, I don’t see any beauty in that compliance team in Apapa, it is a way of blackmailing customs officers into submission.
Last week, we saw the BOT taking over the Secretariat of ANLCA, what does this spell for ANLCA and what are your expectations afterwards?
Truly, this is a build up to a lot of things that have happened in the past, on several occasions, there has been room for reconciliation, people have been writing and calling meetings for the crisis to be resolved, but because the NECOM were occupying the national secretariat, they feel that we are ranting, so they don’t want to talk to us, the court has intervened and said the BOT should take over, but the NECOM believe they are in charge.
From a grapevine report, we learnt that the essence of police locking up the secretariat is because there was intentions of NECOM to burn down the headquarters and blame the other party for being perpetrators, this was why police came to seal the place.
Recently, the other faction of ANLCA went ahead and hijacked, there are speculations that they intend to do same in Apapa
The people that were appointed at night to come and cause trouble in Apapq have been going around to some of the bonded terminals to say that they are the authentic chairmen and deputies, we cannot take laws into our own hands because we know that they are just trying to seek recognition.
These guys are fake, they are not real, they are all strange bird fellows seeking recognition with their irresponsible behaviours.
In Apapa, they have tried what they did at Seme Border but they found out that it is not something they can succeed, Apapa is not like any other chapters.