The Tin-Can Island Port Area Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) may well be carrying out more of physical examinations on imported containerised goods into the country, even with the low capacity utilisation of both the fixed and mobile scanners at the Tin- Can Island Port, SHIPS & PORTS DAILY has gathered.
The development, according to SHIPS & PORTS DAILY findings, is as a result of the increase in the number of containers requested to be re-routed for physical examination.
As a result, officers of the Command are alleged to have taken advantage of the situation by demanding for a specified amount of money for re-routing most of the containers that were earlier scheduled for scanning, to undergo physical examination.
A Customs agent, who sought anonymity told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that some of the agents who have requested their containers be re-routed are allegedly made to part with between N30,000 and N40,000.
He said: “Initially the agents only give recharge cards to the Customs officer on duty as a way of appreciation and gradually to N2, 000 and thereafter mandate them to pay between 10,000 and 40,000, depending on how well you can negotiate to fast-track the re-routing of their containers.”
He noted that all honest agents or importers will want their consignment routed for scanning, as it saves time and facilitates trade.
The National President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Custom Agent, (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu, had during a working visit to the Command last Thursday, as part of measures to address challenges faced by his members, met with the Customs Area Controller (CAC), Comptroller Zakari Jibrin, and terminal heads of the Command, where he identified rerouting of containers as one of the major challenges faced by agents.
Shittu had informed his members at the end of the meeting that the Comptroller General of Customs Dikko Inde Abdulahi has directed those seeking re-routing to write directly to the CAC for approval, and that rerouting is for “free”, an indication that the agents part with money to get their consignment rerouted.
However in a swift reaction, the Customs Public Relations Officer of the Tin-Can Island Port Area Command, Deputy Superintendent of Customs Chris Osunkwo, dismissed allegations of officers demanding money from agents.
He claimed that the Command requires that any agent who wants his container re-routed forwards the application to the CAC stating reasons for the request.
Osunkwo said: “Before now, out of generously, we were doing this re-routing to help, but, unfortunately, even the so-called agents we were helping teamed up with Cotecna to now say that we are subverting and doing something unprocedural; that the ASYCUDA procedure does not approve unauthorised re-routing. And that was why the issue of application came up. The agent applying must tell us the reasons why he wants his consignment re-routed, if the reasons are cogent, the application will be granted. Otherwise, it will not.”