Importers have accused officials of the Tin Can Island Port Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) of imposing illegal charges through the use of “alerts” and hampering the flow of trade.
One of the importers, Charles Ubah, decried what he termed frivolous charges including an “importer alert charge” imposed on him and other importers clearing goods through the command.
He said, “There’s another money I’m paying this morning now, they said it is importers alert. I don’t understand this country. Having paid some illegitimate money to make sure I clear my goods, they are still asking for another importers alert.
“PAAR Abuja gave me go ahead with my clearance having declared my container void of infractions but getting to the valuation unit, I was made to pay this money which I don’t understand its purpose.”
Another importer identified as Nnamdi, said the command has tacitly imposed at least seven different illegal “alert charges” on consignees.
“We pay for CPC alert, system audit alert, CIU alert, strike force alert, compliance unit alert, valuation alert, headquarters alert and still counting and the government expects me not to sell at high price. This is not going to be possible.
“I am telling Nigerians that Customs is the cause of inflation in the country. There is nothing we can do about that. I imported my goods from Italy. Having paid more than five million naira for clearance; what is now my gain? But Nigerians will be on the receiving side when I start selling it,” Nnamdi said,
When contacted, Public Relations Officer of the Tin Can Island Port Command, Uche Ejesieme, denied the imposing of charges on the consignees through the issuance of the so-called alert.
He said, “What is the meaning of alert? Let us start first to describe alert. Alert is only meant to create awareness to trigger your consciousness as an officer acting on a document to look at certain risk parameters before taking an appropriate action on a document.
“That they got alert does not mean you must pay additional duty. The essence of alert is just to use technology to control the psyche of any officer who is acting on any declaration. And that alert would point out certain parameters. It might require you take a second look at the value, or the quantity, or the year of manufacturing depending on the consignment.
“By the time an appropriate officer – and after you check all those parameters and discover that there are no issues – you will now revert back, through the system to the owner that the value is in order and the consignment is released.”