By Godwin Oritse
Customs agents in connivance with officials of the Nigeria Customs Service are circumventing the fast track cargo clearing process at the nation’s sea ports. Vanguard gathered that the issue of flying containers without recourse to paying accruable duties is being perpetrated mainly by some Customs officials at the Customs Investigations Unit CIU and select staff of some terminal operators at the main gate said to be responsible for signing the Terminal Delivery Order TDO for these agents.
Recently, several containers were intercepted by some patriotic eagle-eyed Customs officers and upon interrogations; the suspects claimed they belonged to a courier firm.
It was further learnt that this fraud is mainly carried out at night. Sources close to the command hinted that this daily fraud at both Ports has constituted a major source of leakage in the nation’s revenue generation drive;
advising the federal government to reshuffle the officers at the main gate with a view to checkmating this unpatriotic act.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a licensed agent who spoke to Vanguard, said if the government of President Muhammadu Buhari was actually out to fight corruption to a standstill, it should urgently beam its searchlight on both Ports adding that there is dire need to put a final stop to offloading ships at night.
The source also opined that the federal government should revisit containers that had been flown out of the Ports via illegal fast tract in recent times saying that large sums of money could have been lost. “This crime is being carried out on daily basis and even as I speak to you now it is going on.
This is strictly between some Customs officials at the CIU at the terminal, main gate and staffers of some terminal operators who write the Terminal Delivery Order for them; using the illegal fast track to move without paying duties on them. What is now obtainable is that genuine clearing agents no longer have business at these ports any longer because importers patronize those who could get their containers out as quickly as possible without paying the normal duties on them.”
The source therefore, wants the Comptroller-General of Customs, Alhaji Muhammed Dikko to constitute a discrete investigation committee to this effect assuring that within days, the committee would have unravelled those behind these shady deals at the ports. But in a swift reaction, the Public Relation officer in charge of Apapa port , Emmanuel Ekpa said the fact that containers leave the port at night does not mean that they were leaving illegally.
He also told Vanguard that the Apapa Area one Command was already putting rejoinder to counter the report. Speaking in similar vein, the Public Relation officer of the Tin-can Island port Mr Chris Osunkwo said that the report has shown that there is a need to educate the public on fast track procedure adding that some Customs agents does not understand the procedure of releasing cargoes through fast track. He explained that with the fast track procedure, it is impossible to move any container out of t he port illegally.