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Customs agents, freight forwarders lock horns over operational issues

By Sulaimon Salau
10 August 2016   |   2:16 am
The National Publicity Secretary of NAGAFF, Stanley Ezenga, in a statement made available to The Guardian said the corporate veil has been a huge source of revenue leakage, hence the reviewed Customs law should do away with it.
Container stacking area at the port.

Container stacking area at the port.

It is definitely not a rosy affair between the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agent (ANLCA) and National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), as the duo opened confrontational accusations on the legality of their existence and operations.

NAGAFF has recently described the formation of ANLCA as a deliberate platform to siphon funds meant for the development of the industry, while the former said NAGAFF does not have any business with importation, going by its statutory formation..

The National Publicity Secretary of NAGAFF, Stanley Ezenga, in a statement made available to The Guardian said the corporate veil has been a huge source of revenue leakage, hence the reviewed Customs law should do away with it.

He said: “It is most unfortunate that the Nigeria Customs Service is unduly strict on revenue matters leaving core areas of their ancillary functions to encourage trade.

“The Customs must do away with impunity and abuse of powers with a view to facilitating and growing trade and commerce in Nigeria. A deliberate attack and suppression of systemic corruption in the service operations shall go a long way in checking compliance related issues.

“To achieve some of the expected changes and reforms in the Customs operation, the urgent need to do away with corporate licensing of agents cannot be over emphasised.

“This is because the corporate veil has been a huge source of revenue leakage. It is alleged that a greater number of licenses issued by Customs to corporate bodies belong to retired and serving Customs officers. Others are to the few agents who can afford the high fees, and some foreigners in Nigeria involved in freight forwarding and logistics businesses.

“The new concept of shutting down the Direct Traders Input (DTI) café and the release of password to the corporate bodies licensed by the Nigeria Customs Service may not be a good idea because it is like the pot and the kettle. Story of blackness.

“The good news is the forthcoming review of the Customs law at the National Assembly. We hope that Sections 153, 154, 155 and 156 shall be repealed and deleted from the Act to give way to professionalism as envisaged by the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN Act).

“We do hope that our sister Association of Customs Licensed Agents should start thinking of winding up because the new Act is about Customs representative,” he said.

However, President, ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, in a swift response said the former was only aggrieved because the platform of doing sharp practices – DTI Cafe has been shut against them.

Shittu said: “We are already Customs representatives because my company is given a licence to act on behalf of Customs, but the freight forwarders have no license, they should not even be seeing in the ports because their job is transportation.

“And there is no way the CRFFN Act can subsume the whole of Customs. All over the world Customs is the first line charge. This is a cheer envy because if you don’t work in a licence company, you don’t have business in the Ports.

“There is no revenue leakage with a corporate company, there will only be a revenue leakage if you licence an individual. People work in a bank steal money and disappear, the authorities will hunt the Board members, now you can imagine an individual, in fact go to CRFFN the larger part of NAGAFF members who registered themselves as individuals have their individual address as No 2, Maybin Road where NAGAFF secretariat is located, so if Mr. A steals money and you now go to NAGAFF secretariat and say you are looking for Mr. A… How do you get him?

“Besides, the founder of NAGAFF has a corporate licence in the name of NAGAFF Integrated Services, why did he retain his own license, if its not necessary. He continued to tell people that corporate licensing is not necessary, but he got his own,” he said.

Shittu noted that, “the problem is just the cancellation of a Cyber Cafe that I used to frustrate customs and defraud the Federal Government. Now the Cyber Cafe has been closed and the government is now tying Direct Trader Input (DTI) to your licence. What they do in those days was to go to go the Cyber Cafe pick somebody’s name or licence without his knowledge and use it to fly cargo, do underpayment, but now that DTI is tied to my licence, it means nobody can use my license. So that door is shut against them.

“We have evidences of the usage. We have a member in Port Harcourt who just got a fresh licence, he has never used it before, they went to KLD and use it to exit 10 containers through the cyber cafe,” he alleged.