The National President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Tony Iju Nwabunike, on Monday came down hard on the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), accusing Customs operatives of forcing freight forwarders to pay bribe “as if it is a legitimate bill to pay”.
Speaking at an event tagged “All Freight Forwarders Forum” in Lagos, Nwabunike charged the various freight forwarding associations operating at the port to unite to put an end to the impunity of the Customs operatives and the officials of other government agencies.
The “All Freight Forwarders Forum” was attended by the members of ANLCA, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN) and Nigerian Association of Air Freight Forwarders and Consolidated (NAFFAC).
“Why we are here is not just to say enough is enough, but to take action. I started freight forwarding in 1989. But from that time till date, I’ve never seen the kind of impunity from the government agencies we are seeing today.
“Customs has inexplicably made us to be committed to the payment of bribes as if it is a legitimate bill to pay. They put up all sorts of alert dues on us.
“To make the whole matter worse, our customers who should be looking at us as their lawyers are now helpless because we are not defending them.
“We need to stand and take our position back ranging from Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Police, Department of State Service (DSS), and every other stratum of the government at the port,” Nwabunike, said.
Also speaking, the Founder of NAGAFF, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, said the extortion by Customs officials at the ports is as a result of revenue target imposed on the agency by the Federal Government.
He noted that the extortion will persist as long as importers and their agents try to circumvent the law.
“I really want to appreciate the resolution of ANLCA and NAGAFF at this point in time to come together in order to fight for their rightful place in the industry which has almost been snatched away due to division among the associations.
“The major reason why extortion by the officials of the Nigeria Customs Service has become a normal trend at the port is as a result of revenue target the Federal Government has placed on them. They want to meet the target, hence, the forceful extortion. It is not against Customs law for the agency to mount check points anywhere around the port, but it is an abuse of power to extort ports users.
“Meanwhile, they would continue to take advantage of us if we are not law-compliant. We must not be advocating equity before the law with dirty hands. We must abide by the rules and regulations before we can be confident enough to face them,” he said. Aniebonam said the collaboration between the major freight forwarding associations will help in influencing government decisions through the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN).
“Now that we have the five associations, the sky is our limit. And now that the CRFNN election is at the corner, we are presenting a very strong front to influence government decisions. This is a pressure group that should be consulted before any decision that pertains to freight forwarding is reached. It is worthy of note to say that we are presenting individuals that are going there to present our grievances, not their own challenges or problems.
“In the beginning, CRFFN comprises of the government and representatives of freight forwarders. The government was also with us but we threw away the opportunity. However, the time has come to take our rightful place,” the NAGAFF founder added.