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Clearing agents threaten to ground Lagos ports over multiple checkpoints

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Clearing agents operating in Apapa and Tin-Can Island ports in Lagos have threatened to ground the facilities over alleged multiple checkpoints.

To this end, the aggrieved workers yesterday issued a 72-hour ultimatum to the Comptroller General (CG) of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Hameed Ali, to immediately halt “duplication of clearance processes at the seaports.”

The agents, who spoke under the auspices of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) and National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), gave the Customs boss up till Monday to address the problem else activities at the ports would be paralysed.

Addressing a press conference in Lagos, they accused Ali of deploying a team from Abuja to allegedly checkmate activities of the various commands at the Western Zone, thus slowing down clearance processes.

The freight forwarders identified 10 bottlenecks at the ports to include CG Strike Force; Compliance Team; Federal Operations Unit; Monitoring; Special Force; CG Task Force and Information Team.

The action which spiked the latest tension, according to them, was the recent deployment of a special team from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to inspect third party cargoes at the port.

The Tin Can chapter chairman of ANLCA, Prince Segun Oduntan, said: “The CG committee was sent to Apapa port last Thursday under the guise of inspecting some third party containers,” alleging that the team had since taken over the job of resident customs officers.

Stressing that 24 hours cargo clearance was now a mirage, he claimed cargoes were currently being “detained inside the ports while agents are made to pay exorbitant demurrage to terminal operators.”

The zonal coordinator of NAGAFF, Alhaji Tanko, alleged: “Last week, we saw officers from Abuja who said they were sent to the terminals to inspect some third party containers. But since then, they have remained permanent inside the port.

“They now randomly select ‘C’ numbers and after cargoes have been released, they would ask you to reposition it for examination and we are made to pay for re-examination.”

Chairman of Tin Can chapter of NAGAFF, Azubuike Ekweozor, decried the activities of shipping companies and terminal operators besides the “excesses of the Customs.”

On his part, Apapa chapter chairman of NAGAFF, Ndubuisi Uzoegbo, urged the CG to build trust in his field officers and carry freight forwarders along in decision-making and policy formulation.

In the meantime, the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) yesterday said 80 per cent of cargoes in neighbouring countries were diverted from the nation, resulting in huge revenue loss.

Its Executive Secretary, Hassan Bello, who made the disclosure at a sensitisation workshop organised by the NSC in collaboration with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) in Lagos, traced the development to inefficiency and high tariffs at the nation’s ports.


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