Clearing agents at Apapa Port yesterday protested against the involvement of Customs Intelligent Unit (CIU) in the examination of containers.
The protest is coming on the heels of a recent circular issued by the Nigeria Customs management directing that CIU officers must operate outside the terminal but may participate in the physical examination of consignments.
According to the circular, the CIU operatives are allowed to witness examination after which they are to withdraw to their offices outside the port and must not issue clearance to any importer under any guise.
The agents under the auspices of the various associations including the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Association of Registered Freight Forwarders (AREFF) and the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) are however demanding that on no account should CIU officers be involved in cargo clearance.
“With the new system of clearing under PAAR (Pre-Arrival Assessment Report); CIU is no more required because customs is the originator of the whole system. They also have the Post Clearance Audit (PCA) unit which can go after any cargo that has left the port with a low duty payment,” Chairman of ANLCA, Apapa Chapter, Olumide Fakanlu, who spoke on behalf of the protesting agents, said.
According to him, the circular which stated that CIU officers can ‘witness examination’ is too ambiguous.
“We have read the directives but it is too ambiguous, it states that they can ‘witness examination’ but when they witness, they will start raising false alarm to other arms of Customs. Most of the containers they have arrested since last week now; they have not found anything against them and yet the owners of those containers are paying demurrage on them,” Fakanlu said.
Addressing the aggrieved agents, Assistant Comptroller General of Customs Austin Warikoru, who was in charge of the transition of the destination inspection scheme from service providers to the Nigeria Customs Service, assured them that the new Customs directive would not hamper the businesses of those who make genuine and honest declarations.
“We expect you us to tell us everything you have in your container, when you do that , there is no job for the CIU to start alerting or informing some other person, then you will have no reason to fear,” he said.
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