…Accuses Customs Officers of Illegal Sample Taking During Cargo Examination
By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) has said that it was able to save foreign vessel masters calling at Nigerian ports a cost of N3.2billion which could have been lost to bribery and other illegal demands by government officials boarding vessels at the port terminals at Apapa and Tin Can Island Port of Lagos.
The funds was calculated between 3rd of March 2021 up till 26th of November 2021.
Cordinator of the PSTT, Comrade Moses Fadipe stated this on Tuesday when he paid a working visit to the secretariat of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) in Olodi-Apapa, Lagos.
According to him, averagely before now, specifically in 2020, it takes an average of seven to ten days to resolve issues with masters of vessels with government officials. Within that time, the ship master pays 20,000USD per day.
He however said that due to PSTT intervention, it takes an average of one to four hours to solve issues, so they cannot pay such money again.
Apart from these, Fadipe said the infractions against Nigerian officials at the port in 2020 was 161, but in 2021 it reduced to only 21, and this is what PSTT has saved the nation.
He said the team has equally reduced the amount of government officials boarding vessels at berths. Unlike before, vessel waiting time has reduced drastically because within an hour of arrival, the vessels must break bulk.
Fadipe also said that Nigerian Customs Service and other officials of other agencies are culpable of illegal taking of large quantities of product samples during cargo examination and they are never returned to the importers.
While sensitising dockworkers who gathered in multitudes at the MWUN Secretariat, Comrade Fadipe stated that dockworkers are being used to convey these illegal samples out of the port.
He warned Nigerian dockworkers to stop helping Customs officers and other government agencies in carrying product samples out of the port.
Speaking he said “From 3rd of March 2021 up till 26th of November 2021, we were able to save vessel masters demurrage of N3.2billion which has never happened in this country.
With this, all masters of vessels all over the world now send Pre-arrival notification to Nigeria, meaning that before they berth in Nigeria, they must have given us a notice of when they would arrive.
“As our government officials start boarding these vessels, they are letting us know in real time and what they are requesting for.
Speaking further on illegal same taking, he said “In the port terminal everyday, government officials go home with product samples, we know that some agencies are allowed to take samples and we know the quantity they ought to carry, but what we are saying now is commercial quantity, and you will never see these officers carrying it by themselves, they always use dockworkers to carry it, I am begging you to please, don’t carry samples for anyone again.
“I have met with the Customs highest authorities and at the command level and I have told them that nobody will samples for any officer again.
“We have made seizures in the last four months and it has filled two twenty foot containers to the brim within two months, we seize samples everyday.
We have a form called same form, and we now compelled them to fill that form, and ask them to go and call the official that own the sample, but they would never show up.
“We are reaching a stage now whereby, we would be arresting anyone caught with such samples.
“Anyone that is being victimised for rejecting to convey samples for any government official should report to the PSTT and to the MWUN Secretariat” he said
Fadipe appealed to the MWUN leadership, saying that there is need for the union to work together with the Task Team by way of information sharing, he said the team is equally ready to provide the shield needed in covert operations.
The PSTT Cordinator announced that MWUN under the leadership of Comrade Adewale Adeyanju has been drafted into the Port Standing Task Team and in the next forty eight hours, a letter to that effect would be conveyed to the union to confirm its status.
Also speaking, President General of MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju promised that the union is committed to work with the PSTT in order to bring sanity to the Nigerian Port system.
He said that the PSTT would bring efficiency to the port and to the dockworkers better than before.
He assured that the practice of conveying samples on behalf of government officials is giving the union a bad name and it has stopped forthwith
He equally warned that any member of the union caught to be working in collaboration with drug peddlers automatically would seize being members of the union.
“Part of what you see today is what we have been doing in the past in terms of sensitization, we would continue to speak to our members and educate them, they must not be used by any agency to carry things that does not belong to them” he said
Also speaking, Comrade Ibrahim Ohize, Dockworkers Branch President of MWUN stated that the President General has earlier given a directive that no dockworker should be an errand boy to Customs officials in taking and conveying samples out of the port.
“We kickstarted this at APM Terminals last week following the PG’s directive. I want to assure you that with the leadership of MWUN we have today, the era of hooliganism in the port has gone.
“The PG (Comrade Adeyanju) has been warning us, all the dockworkers in the past three years, he has been calling several meetings and warning not to involve in any illegality at the port” Ohize confirmed
Comrade Ifeanyi Mazeli, President of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA Branch) of the Union said the PSTT cannot function without MWUN, describing the visit as a step in the right direction.
“You cannot rule out the fact that some NPA staff can also use their identity cards to sneak out samples from the port. He said the inspection has to be holistic” Mazeli stated
The Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) was launched in year 2020 by Nigerian Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo in order to fight corruption in the port system.
PSTT was a child of circumstance, born out of the fact that government agencies were not doing what they were supposed to be doing, this is why the team was created to monitor and ensure that activities are streamlined right from the berthing of vessels, up to her departure.
The PSTT is domiciled under the Nigerian Shippers Council.