Clearing agents operating at the nation’s seaport have decried the activities of operatives of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone ‘A’ of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) along the popular Leventis Bus- Stop in Apapa saying it is impeding free flow of traffic and quick evacuation of cargoes from the port.
Since the rehabilitation work on the Apapa-Wharf road commenced, one section of the road had been closed, with just only the Leventis road linking the Ijora – bridge opened to traffic.
SHIPS & PORTS DAILY correspondent observed that the FOU operatives now have their vehicles stationed permanently at the Leventis stopping already cleared consignments at the port.
The clearing agents who spoke in separate interviews with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY, said the activities of the FOU operatives is not only hindering quick evacuation of cargo from the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa but has worsened the already bad traffic situation along the Apapa-Wharf road.
National Publicity Secretary, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Stanley Ezenga said contrary to the claims by Customs that information patrol outside the border should not last more than 24 hours, the officers now have their vehicles stationed permanently at the Leventis Bus Stop.
He said, “That road is very narrow because of the ongoing road rehabilitation in Apapa. All the traffic is now diverted towards that road only and that road can hardly allow two vehicles to pass at a time. Customs say they cannot mount road block for more than 24 hours but they (Federal Operations Unit) are there stationary thereby impeding the free flow of traffic out of Apapa.
“When they stop one truck laden with container, it will block the road and getting other vehicles to pass becomes a problem. Government has a way of saying one thing and not implementing it. In other words, Customs operatives are contravening the directives on road blocks.
“They can move to area where the area is broader so that they can do what they want to do so that vehicles can still manoeuvre and there can be smooth flow of traffic,” he said.
Ezenga blamed the continued interception of containers by FOU operatives on the lack of proper examination of consignments by officers at the port.
According to him, “The Customs administrators inside the terminals are the ones making their (FOU) stay relevant because they are not doing diligent work as far as releasing of cargo is concerned. If at the point of examination, a container was properly examined and the goods were released, their stay there will be irrelevant.”
Another clearing agent, Chukwumalu Emeka described FOU’s activities as illegal.
He said, “Having their vehicles stationed there is not the proper thing to do. It is illegal because they are not supposed to operate outside 40km within the port. We are going to raise the issue with the Controller of the unit on how to address it because a lot of people are complaining about the effect of their activities on movement of cargoes out of the port.”
Reacting to the development, Public Relations Officer of FOU, Jerry Attah, dismissed the allegation saying that the officers are not stationed on the road but only patrol based on information.
“We don’t have any checkpoint in Leventis. If you see any of our patrol vehicles around there, they are supposed to go on information patrol not that they are stationed there. If you see any vehicle stationed there for more than 24 hours, it is illegal, and they should please report and give us the particulars of such vehicles and we will take necessary actions.
“We talk about ease of doing business but you cannot sacrifice national security on any individual’s interest. So when we get any information, we must act on it. If we don’t act and anything happens, Customs will be held responsible,” he said.