SEME BORDER: Agents panic over FG’s ‘containerisation’ policy

Clearing agents operating at Seme border have been thrown into panic following a directive from the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to move all “uncontainerised” goods away from the border.
SHIPS & PORTS DAILY gathered that the agents were given a deadline of March 15, 2013, to evacuate from the border all “uncontainerised” goods and then, henceforth, to only clear goods as sent in the original forms from the exporting countries.
Chairman of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Seme Border Chapter, Mr. Patrick Ozobialu, told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that the information was passed on to the agents by the Customs Area Controller (CAC), Seme Border Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), who, according to him, told them that the directive was from Abuja.

Ozobialu said that agents are disturbed by the situation, noting that the directive will only disrupt normal operations at the border.
He said: “I have not witnessed containerised goods passing through the border to Nigeria. Since Seme started I think we have always been carrying uncontainerized goods. These goods are goods that are trans-loaded from containers in Cotonou unto our trucks to be ready to go to Nigeria … That has been the routine and that has been the way we have been operating there. Giving us an ultimatum of one week or so, I don’t understand. What about the goods coming from ECOWAS (Eonomic Community of West African States) community? What are they thinking about such goods because trucks go to the factories that manufacture these goods and these factories load it on the trucks and bring it by road to Nigeria. As at now we are not working. This sounds like a bombshell to us.”

Another ANLCA chieftain operating at the border, Alhaji Dele Azeez, however, told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that he is not against the directive, but only expects that the agents are given more time to move away the “uncontainerised goods”, while urging the government to put in place the facilities to carry out the task.
He noted that the directive is in tandem with international trade policy that directs that the seal of any particular containerised good should not be tampered with until it reaches its country of destination, which, according to him, has largely been ignored by most agents operating at the border.
“Once you break seal on a transit container, you are breaking the rule of transit. What we have been doing is breaking the rule of transit, because once you break the container to unstuff it in the country of discharge, whatever charges that country tells you to pay you have to pay. So that means goods are supposed to come in the original form to the country of destination. What we are only trying to tell the government is that they have to provide all the logistics, because there are no cranes or forklifts to release containers from trucks, in case there is need for hundred percent examination or a case where the truck falls on the road, which cannot be lifted manually. We are telling them to grant us an extension of time so all these facilities can be put in place,” Azeez said.

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