Clearing agents operating at the Tin Can Island Port have condemned the activities of operatives of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A of the Nigeria Customs Service stationed at Berger yard and Otto wharf along the Mile 2/ Tin can road, accusing the officials of creating unnecessary bottlenecks for free movement of goods duly released from the port.
SHIPS & PORTS correspondent observed that the FOU operatives, despite the heavy dust occasioned by the ongoing construction along the Mile 2/Tin can road now have their vehicles permanently stationed there, stopping not just container laden trucks but vehicles that have been cleared from the Tin Can Island port, thereby compounding the gridlock along the axis.
No fewer than 10 trucks were seen parked on the road on Thursday as the operatives re-examined the clearance document while the agents and truck drivers looking frustrated tried to negotiate for the release of the containers.
Speaking with SHIPS & PORTS on the development, a clearing agent, Ari Ayuba, described the activities of the FOU as worrisome, which he said is not only causing delay but compounding the gridlock on the Mile 2/Tin Can road.
“The activity of the Customs operatives on the road is worrisome. They operate there like cult members because once they stop you, they will threaten you that they will take your container to their office in Ikeja, which is very wrong. Our porous borders are there for them to go and man, they will not. But they will come to where you pass through the necessary procedure only for them to stop and extort you.
“The road construction is another problem on its own but Customs is now compounding it by parking those containers there unnecessarily. The dust on that road alone is not even good for humans to inhale but they still weather the dust because they are making extra money there. If there is any container that has an issue, Customs should devise a means such that for any FOU operatives to stop your container, the alert must come from the command because it is the same Customs. But when they just periodically do random sampling, delaying people’s goods is not good for business,” he said.
Also speaking, another agent, Ojo Akintoye, said that the spot has become another examination bay for consignments coming out of the ports where the operatives subject agents to intimidation and extortion.
“We see the Customs FOU operatives there on a daily basis and the worst part of it is that the place has become their permanent site despite the road construction with the gridlock that people are experiencing on a daily basis. It has become an examination bay for consignments coming out of the port except you do the needful by force or willing.
“It is unfortunate the situation we find ourselves because I have never seen where this kind of practice is done anywhere in the world where a consignment will leave the port and a few kilometres away, same Customs will stop it outside and subject it for another examination,” he said.
When contacted, Customs FOU spokesman, Peter Duniya, feigned ignorance about the presence of the operatives along the road, saying they are not stationed there but only act on intelligence.
He said the trucks parked on the road on Thursday were seizures made from an intelligence gathering adding that three of the containers have been moved to the Customs warehouse.
“Our officers don’t station themselves on that road because it is not a checkpoint. They act on intelligence based on information. What happened yesterday was a seizure of three containers along that axis. So if there was a gridlock as a result of the operation, it was because the drivers of the trucks refused to drive down to the warehouse and another one had a problem that it had to be towed down to the warehouse,” he said.