A former Controller of Customs has accused the Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali and his management team of frustrating the Ease of Doing Business policy of the Federal Government by creating bureaucratic bottlenecks that stifle cargo clearance at the ports.
The Controller, who spoke with SHIPS & PORTS, made the remark while berating the Customs CG over the sealing of Clarion bonded terminal located at Kirikiri Lighter Terminal Phase 2, Lagos.
Customs operatives had last month sealed the terminal over claims that it was operating in contravention of laid down rules, as the space was allegedly not designated for such purpose.
The closure of the facility had left containers worth billions of naira trapped while accruing demurrage leaving owners of the goods and their agents at the mercy of Customs.
The retired Controller, who at different time, headed Customs operations at the KLT, said, “Why should Customs go to Clarion bonded terminal and seal it up while the terminal is saying they are duly registered? Why is Customs doing that and up to this time they have not opened it?
“There are people who imported their cargo on loans and they are paying interest on the loan yet Customs is not even bothered. This is an ugly situation. Is this the ease of doing business they have been preaching about? Customs took those containers there, not on the request of the owner and now the people are suffering.
“Was the terminal not registered by Customs? So why would Customs go there and seal it up? And to reopen it now is taking more than a month. If Customs knows that the bonded terminal is not legal why should they approve the transfer of containers to that place in the first instance? Now a lot of importers are crying. Are we in a country that does not have laws?
“No container is transferred to a bonded terminal without approval by Customs. Now that they have approved it and containers are moved there, why should they punish the importers who do not know why their containers in the first instance are taken there? Why should they stop the containers from being examined for almost one month now?
“This is wrong and the CG should be told in clear terms that he is doing the wrong thing. If he doesn’t know the Customs law, let him go and read the CEMA. Issues of this nature should not go beyond the Zonal Coordinator to address,” he said.
Meanwhile, efforts by clearing agents who have their goods trapped at the bonded warehouse to seek intervention of the Controller of Apapa Customs Command, Muhammed Abba-Kura for the release of their consignment were unsuccessful as he referred the agents to the office of the Zonal Coordinator of Customs at Yaba, Lagos.
Speaking with SHIPS & PORTS at the end of a closed door meeting with the Controller on Friday, Chairman, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Apapa Chapter, Dom Onyeka, described Customs action as unreasonable.
Efforts to get the Zonal Coordinator, Kaycee Ekekezie, for her reaction on the development proved abortive as calls put through to her mobile phone were not responded to.