•Apapa command insists on right to operate at gate
•NPA faults action, says it’s against Ease of Doing Business
Irked by the challenges of multiple cargo clearance at seaports, maritime stakeholders have berated the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) for posting officers to the exit gate of Lagos Ports Complex, describing the action as contravention to the Ease of Doing Business policy of the Federal Government.
The Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, at the second quarter stakeholders’ meeting in Lagos, said the presence of Customs at the gate of seaports negates the presidential Ease of Doing Business.
Usman who was represented by Executive Director Marine and Operations, Sekonte Davis, disclosed that stakeholders are complaining of the excesses of Customs at the ports adding that the Executive Order clearly explains Customs involvement in the examination of cargoes.
She explained that the cross checking import documents at the point of exit amount to delays and waste of time, urging the NCS to appoint credible officers to the terminals to check the fraudulent freight forwarders and fraudulent importers.
The Customs Coordinator of Ease of Doing Business at Apapa Port, Yahaya O.A.I, immediately responded that there is nowhere in the executive order where it is stated that Customs should move out of the port gate.
He said: “Nobody (Customs) examines containers at the gate. What we do is to cross check the document. Apapa port is not meant for examination alone; we have containers that are on fast track. We have some that go to hinterlands that are not being examined inside the ports. There are certain reasons why officers have to be at the gate and no agent will complain that Customs is obstructing his job, unless there are infractions.
Representative of Corporate Fleet Association, Paul Alamah, queried what the Customs are still doing at the gate after a container has been examined, confirmed, released, loaded and moved.
Head of Special Duty, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Emma Agunbanze, said that the Executive Order simplified cargo clearance and asked for the collapse of the multiple checks by the Customs and fast tracks leaves the port with seals which are not expected to be opened at the gates, even the containers of transit go with their seal after being examined by Customs officer at the examination bay and cleared by Customs officers to leave the port, hence they are not expected to be stopped at the gate.
“When the releasing officer who is properly mandated to lo look into these documents has finished his job, and said that this cargo is good to go. What are they still checking at the gate? It is unfortunate that these same containers are still subjected to multiple checks on the highway.
“These do not support the ease of doing business. The Customs are not doing well and they know it. We freight forwarders also know our own shortcomings and the importers are not doing well because they do false declaration, but we must tell ourselves the truth,” he said.