Stakeholders operating at the Lilypond Area Command of the Nigeria Customs Service met on Wednesday to discuss the challenges militating against the smooth flow of cargo at the command.
One of the issues placed on the front burners at the meeting which was largely attended by clearing agents, operator of the terminal and representatives of government agencies was the delay in exit of containers at the gate.
The agents accused the customs officer in charge of the exit gate, Deputy Controller John Akinpelure, of deliberating frustrating the delivery of their containers despite being formally released by the Customs Area Controller (CAC).
Chairman, Lilypond chapter of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Ansalem Njemanze, said most of the customs officers at the command were not supporting the CAC’s effort to ensure prompt release of containers.
He also accused customs desk officers of inability to operate computers thereby creating delays during the processing of clearing documents and of preferential treatment.
“When you came, you made a policy statement that you want to reduce the hours of cargo clearance from 24 hours to 15 hours. But it might interest you to know that the policy is not achievable. Cargoes are deliberately delayed and one of the reasons I could adduce for the delay is that most of the officers are not very conversant with the use of computer.
“Because of the promotion that some of the officers did not get some of them are depressed and when they make statement, some of them don’t even pay attention to the work,” Njemanze informed the Customs Area Controller.
Former Lilypond chapter Chairman, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Ignatius Nwachukwu, also noted that “Jobs are always delayed at the gate reasons being that when you go there to confirm your payment, it takes hours. Somebody will pick the job from there and start issuing debit note (DN) on a job that has been released either by deputy controller in charge of the terminal, DC Administration, DC Enforcement or even an Assistant Controller and signed by the controller, that is double handling.”
The agents also lamented traffic gridlock created by the police and the bad state of access road into the terminal.
Responding to the allegations, the Customs Area Controller, Comptroller Isa Talatu, said no Customs officer will unnecessarily delay container. She said debit note could be raised at the gate if the owner of the consignment is suspected to have short-changed in import duty payment.
She appealed for the cooperation of stakeholders operating at the command to make it friendlier.