February 3, 2017

661 rifles: Customs invites Maersk Line, APM Terminals

661 rifles: Customs invites Maersk Line, APM Terminals

Photos: Customs seizes container of 49 boxes containing 661 Ak 47 rifles in Lagos

By Godfrey Bivbere, Henry Umoru & Ifenyinwa Obi
ABUJA — The Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, has invited the shipping line and terminal operator, Maersk Line, and AP Moller for questioning over alleged involvement in the shipment and clearance of 661 rifles seized by the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, of the service.

Meanwhile, three officers declared wanted by the service have surrendered themselves at the office of the FOU. The three suspects are Abdullahi I, with service number 44483 ASC; Odiba Inah, with service number 133386 ACIC, both of whom were earlier declared wanted and one Yola I.B whose service number could not be ascertained.

Photos: Customs seizes container of 49 boxes containing 661 Ak 47 rifles in Lagos

Similarly, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF,  has emphasised the need for the Customs to invest more on infrastructure at the ports and border areas, stating that huge investment in infrastructure relating to tools for trade facilitation at the ports and border areas,  will reduce the risk of escapes of illegal arms.

Deputy National President Seaport of NAGAFF,  Obums Anene, in a statement, yesterday, said: “Let it be on record that the major problem facing Customs operations is the inability of importers to comply with import and export regulations.  In this regard, it is our view that laws are made to be obeyed and respected by the stakeholders and in particular, the importers and exporters.”

3 wanted officers surrender

Meanwhile, Public Relations Officer of FOU, Jerry Atta,  disclosed that the three officers were being interrogated, adding that the service was determined to get to the bottom of offensive import.

According to Atta, the three officers “voluntarily reported themselves. There is another one that was declared wanted, yesterday, he also reported himself voluntarily.”

Customs invites Mearskline, APMT

On the shipping line that brought in the shipment, he said: “It is Maersk Line, they have also been invited to tell us their role and also the terminal operator (APM Terminal).”

He also confirmed that the importer, clearing agent, and escort, who were arrested along with the arms cargo on Monday, were also making useful statements, saying appropriate action will be taken at the end of investigations.

Some operators have questioned the concessioning of the terminals to companies that have affiliates as shipping company, noting that it makes it easy to beat the system if need be.

However, a front line freight forwarder and Managing Director of Shibab Service Limited, Babatunde Shittu, noted that their involvement in the management of the terminal was not responsible for the clearance of the offensive items.

Customs C-G under fire in Senate over refusal to wear uniform

Meanwhile, Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (retd), was lampooned, yesterday, in the Senate over his refusal to wear Customs uniform since his appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.

Also, yesterday, former Comptrollers-General of Customs took a swipe at the incumbent, stressing that rather than call him a Comptroller-General of Customs, the correct name he ought to bear would have been Sole Administrator since he was not prepared to wear uniform depicting the office and rank of that position.

The attack came, yesterday, during an interactive session organised by the Senator Hope Uzodinma (PDP, Imo West) led Senate Committee on Customs and Excise with Customs  management, Ministry of Finance and Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, over impending amendment bill on operations of the revenue generating agency.

A member of the committee, Senator Obinna Ogba (PDP Ebonyi Central), who challenged Ali for still being in mufti close to two years after his appointment which to him, was highly demoralising to the officers and men of the agency, said: “Mr. C-G, this committee will like to know the reason why you are still in mufti close to two years after your appointment as the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Custom Service.”

Ali’s response

Responding, the Customs boss told the Senators that being a former military officer, tradition and, in fact, status do not permit him to wear any other uniform again.

His response, however, angered another member of the committee, Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West), who reminded the Customs C-G that a retired General of the Nigerian Army in person of Halidu Hananiya wore Federal Road Safety Commission’s uniform when he was appointed as Corp Marshall of the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC.

Responding  to Melaye, Ali told the Senators and other stakeholders that  Hananiya made a big mistake for wearing the uniform of FRSC.

Ali’s response,  angered Senator Ogba, who angrily walked out of  the session, saying: “This is  how you people keep deceiving Nigerians on wrong action and still defend them.”

Non-composition of Customs board

Ali was also tackled by the committee over the non-composition of custom board since 2015 when it was dissolved.

In his remarks, Chairman of the Committee, Senator Uzodinma,  who noted that it was wrong and in fact illegal for the Customs C-G alone to promote and fire officers without the board in place, however, ordered for immediate constitution of the board.

He said: “You claimed that the Minister of Finance is the one delaying the composition of the board, this committee has written letters to the minister, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Attorney General of Federation to put the board in place without any further delay.”

After the session, the chairman jokingly told the Customs C-G: “We are releasing you to go and sew your uniform while we continue with official of Ministry of Finance and CBN.”

Also speaker, former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and former Comptrollers-General of Customs led by Haliru Bello,  who was Customs CG during former President  Ibrahim  Babangida, supported the committee for querying the incumbent CG over his continuous refusal to wear custom Uniform, adding that the incumbent CG ought to have been designated as Sole Administrator and not CG of Customs since he was not ready to be in Customs uniform.

Haliru Bello and other former CGs like Buba Jacob now Gbon Gwon of Jos, Bernard-Shaw Nwadialo , A. Mustapha, among others, however, defended the Customs Service on implementation of destination inspection policy now  as against pre-shipment inspection policy which the committee said  remains the existing Act.