…Agents Finger Customs Officials for Complicity
By DAPO OLAWUNI
Fresh indications have emerged that cyber attack was responsible, as hackers allegedly infiltrated the systems of Five Star Logistics Terminal at Tin Can Island Port of Lagos, whereby several vehicles were allegedly exited from the terminal without paying customs duties.
As a result of this, the terminal was indebted to customs up to N97.3 million in unpaid assessment of the vehicles. The issue has been dragging since 6th of July 2022 as customs subsequently deactivated the terminal from it’s systems.
The Customs are alleging that Five Star Terminal delivered the vehicles and cargoes without them being exited by them, and that virtually all the vehicles have backlogs of unpaid assessments mainly Debit Notes.
In a chat with DAILY TREND at the weekend, top customs sources confirmed that management of the terminal have accepted to pay the N97.3million back to the customs, even though they were not responsible for the debts.
According to the highly placed source, the Managing Director of Five Star Terminal is currently in Abuja and he is meeting with top management of the Nigeria Customs Service on resolving the misunderstanding.
“Hopefully, whatever payment that needs to be done would be paid to the government, it is not really a big deal. The terminal have accepted to pay the debts, even though they said that it was as a result of hackers” he said
In the meantime, DAILY TREND gathered that deactivation of the terminal have not affected activities at the two bonded terminals registered with the Five Star Terminal.
“There is an agreement between Five Star Terminal, Clarion and Classic Bonded Terminal, they share their space. If 2,000 cars come in, for want of space, they can share 1,000 between Clarion and Classic and 1,000 would be left” the customs source said
Our correspondent gathered that management of the Five Star Terminal has decided to transfer all vehicles on the next vessel SILVER RAY with expected time of arrival, 14th July 2022 to Classic and Clarion Bonded Terminals.
On the part of Five Star Logistics, sources at the terminal argued that the alleged cargoes exited illegally did not pass through their terminals.
He argued that findings have revealed that most of the Vehicles are from Cotonou and neighbouring countries, and that hackers must have entered into Customs Server. to register with them.
Meanwhile, the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has threatened to drag Five Star Terminal to Court if the issues are not resolved by July 19th.
Acting President of ANLCA, Dr Kayode Farinto also insisted that the terminal would bear all the demurrages that must have accrue on the trapped cargoes inside the terminal.
However, on a social media group platform monitored by DAILY TREND, the clearing agents have fingered corrupt customs officers for being complicit in the vehicle diversion brouhaha.
One of them, Adebowale Adebare said that the action of the Nigeria Customs against Five Star Terminal is a dubious way of transferring liability of their conniving officers involved in the atrocities.
According to him, without the connivance of officers vacating any alert, the Releasing Officer cannot release while terminal cannot generate exit if the job was not released.
Adebare argued that “The N97million involved should be shared and paid by officers that vacated the Alert, the Releasing officers and Gate control officers, none of them can deny their involvement in this matter if properly investigated as it supposed to be”
On his part, Odanye Babatunde said Customs cannot prove innocence in the case.
“Should the Five-Star agreed to bear the liability, that means a time is coming when our consignment cannot be entrusted in their custody.
“But I know unless custom organization wants to cover their own track, their officers are involved and whoever that is involved should be penalized.
“But what concerns us is the issue of demurrages, we can remember when a replica of such issue happened at Clarion Bonded Terminal, importers were made to bear part or even larger part of the demurrages”
He urged the leadership of the association to ensure that members are not made to pay for offenses they never committed.