Clearing agents flay Customs over bottlenecks in cargo clearance
Clearing agents under aegis of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), have bemoaned the arbitrary demand notice slammed on importers, as they now face several bottlenecks in the clearance of goods, thereby frustrating the Federal Government’s ease of doing business agenda.
Vice President of ANLCA, Kayode Farinto, in a chart with journalists, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to rejig the Customs management team over alleged lack of professionalism.
He alleged that since the current Comptroller-General (CG), Hameed Ali, came on board the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), has lost direction.
He further alleged that there are so many intervention squads that intercept consignments on the road, after being duly cleared at the ports.
He said: “We are meant to believe that the Customs boss was going to add value, but I want to say that this current management team is not adding value. We now lack professionalism and instead, have arbitrary demand notices slammed on importers. We now have a situation where consignments that have been released by the same Customs are being intercepted on the roads. We have a situation where the maritime industry has been operating in a barbaric manner.
“We all know the horrendous task we go through to examine a cargo. We do not have scanners, what we do is 100 per cent physical examination.
“After a set of containers have been examined, we have a situation where the CG has a taskforce within the port, they stop consignment, the same CG taskforce is outside the ports, and you can see them in Area B and Mile 2. We have a compliance team of the same taskforce. We have Federal operation units. These units in the last one week, smartly increased their units and called another one, SWATT.” He said.
Farinto, who also doubles as a member of the board of Council of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (CRFFN), decried that in 48-hours, agents could not make any declaration, as the Customs Command is always giving excuses of upgrading its system, while the delay leads to demurrage for importers.
These accusations come Ali described recent media reports alleging that he had breached contract award procedures during an investigative hearing by the House of Representatives, as untrue.
Ali, who spoke through the Customs National Public Relations Officer, Joseph Attah, said some of the issues raised during the hearing with the lawmakers predated the periods before his appointment to head the Service.
He said: “While the CG appeared before the Committee, questions were asked about contracts that were even awarded before his appointment as CGC.
“There was an obvious mix-up, hence the Committee suggested a sub-committee including members of the NASS and the NCS to iron out the grey areas before representation.”