Apapa Customs Revenue Threatened as Importers, Agents Vow to Boycott Command for Lekki Ports Over Container Scanning

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Compt Babatunde Olomu

By DAPO OLAWUNI

There is palpable tension at the Apapa Ports as importers and their clearing agents have vowed to divert their consignments to Lekki Ports and Tin Can Island Port over delays and alleges high handedness of customs officers in charge of container scanning.

Scores of clearing agents and importers who spoke with DAILY TREND under anonymity for fear of their cargoes being victimised, alleged that since a new Deputy Comptroller was brought to the scanning seat in February 2024, she is subjecting already scanned containers for physical examination, thereby causing unease of doing business, delays and payment of demurrages.

One of the agents told our correspondent that when containers are routed for scanning and there are no suspicions, the Customs officers still deliberately order the container to be returned back and repositioned for hundred percent examination.

According to them, this has caused untold financial hardships as scanning of containers costs N70,000 while repositioning costs another N75,000.

Apart from the financial implications, they complained that whole process leads to payments of demurrage and cargoes are delayed for three weeks in the process.

One of them said “The implication of this action is that it is delaying cargo evacuation and it additional cost to clearance, sometimes it takes us three weeks to get cargo out of the port and we would be paying demurrage.

“Demurrage on reefer containers is N124,000 per day.
A lot of agents have complained to the command but nothing is done

“One of my clients called me that I should take his cargo out of Apapa Port, they have been hearing a lot of information about the delays accompanying cargo clearance at Apapa Port” he said

An importer, who identified himself as Hon Samuel Ugonna, cleared that “Once an agent is facing a lot of difficulties on the job, we can decide to divert our cargoes to other Ports like Lekki Port and Tin Can Port, and the command would continue to lose Revenue.

Speaking in the same vein, another freight forwarder who pleaded anonymity cried out, saying that “We are losing a lot of clients as a result of all these delays, a job that you are supposed to deliver within five days, it is still at the port for three weeks, who will pay for the demurrage? We are losing a lot of clients, coupled with the bad economy, people are crying.

“The customs are making things very difficult for people.
Now, agents are now re-routing their cargoes from going through scanning because it is the worst.

“Physical examination could take three days, scanning is supposed to be easiest.

“All these Repositioning of containers costs us money. Scanning alone is N75,000, if you are Repositioning, you also pay N75,000

“This woman in charge of scanning, a Deputy Comptroller, was previously at Tin Can Port before they brought her to Apapa in February this year.

“Agents are being frustrated and we would start taking our cargoes back to Lekki Deep Seaport or to Tin Can Island Port” he said

The agents lamented that cargoes usually affected by these irregularities are raw materials, chemicals, reefer containers and supermarkets items.

Meanwhile, when DAILY TREND contacted the Apapa Customs Command through its Public Relations Officer, Usman Abubakar, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, he debunked the allegations.

According to him, some containers needed to be subjected to physical examination because the scanning machine does not give comprehensive information needed to maximise revenue generation.

“What we deal with is imagery, we dont deal with pictorial image to describe or interprete these consignments. So, there are certain items, particularly, items like chemicals which can fall under the regulations, it could have some radioactive materials in them which could require repositioning to see the material physically other than just looking at the image.

“Such consignments are the ones I think the agents are complaining about. Also, sometimes when you have heterogeneous items mixed up with other items that can be classified differently from what the original items are, we would subject you to physical checks, even if it suits the analyst.

“There are instances when doing documentation, there are certain things that might not fit into where we are trying to place the heading in order to maximise the collection of revenue, in such circumstances, these containers would be subjected to physical checks.

“These are not in all cases, it is done randomly in few occasions on those cargoes that have not given us correct descriptions, or such containers that are alerted, there is need to subject them to physical checks so that verifications and correct information would be inputed for necessary value appraisal.

“That is all we do here, but some of the agents view this differently.
The analysts are not robots, scanning has an SOP” he concluded.

3 thoughts on “Apapa Customs Revenue Threatened as Importers, Agents Vow to Boycott Command for Lekki Ports Over Container Scanning

  1. If the case is for maxinum revenue generation then the trader should keep losing money in the process!

    Nigeria must work and our customs officers needs to work genuely to fascilitate trade.

    Custom should then subject categories of item for Physical examination instead of double handling.

    1. Trader should keep losing money? Did that came out from your mouth and did reason it with a brain? That’s ridiculous.

      Shipping companies gives 7 days demurrage free and in every country in the world, the practice of scanning and release of containers by customs shouldn’t be more than 3days so as to give importer time to offload and return empty.

      Are you now supporting a system that keeps cargo for close to 3weeks just for scanning? I don’t understand. Do people need to always present a clean certificate of mentality before they comment? That comment of yours is beyond normal eye

  2. Even Tincan port is not efficient again due to the ALERT system on cargo all the time which also delay the process in clearing! The post clearance audit of customs can recal cargo if they are nit satisfied after clearing to prevent unnecessary alert on Job all the time.

    The cac in Tincan is also intercepting correction with documentation at Assesment causing delay in clearing as well.

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