By Godfrey Bivbere & Ifeyinwa Obi
LAGOS— Operators in the maritime sector have said that the senior officers responsible for releasing and examination at the Lagos port were culpable in the case of the 661 pump-action riffles recently seized by the Federal Operations Unit of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, at Mile 2 area on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway.
They meanwhile called for the deployment of scanners to the ship side to ensure that all consignments coming into the country were scanned.
The operators noted that apart from the two junior officers, Abdullahi I, with service number 44483 ASC, and Odiba Inah, with service number 133386, which the Service declared wanted, the Deputy Controllers in charge of examination, release of cargoes and the one stationed at the gate were also culpable.
National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola, said that the above officers were also culpable.
He also said that the absence of scanner made it easy for the consignment to be easily cleared from the port.
He noted that even if the consignment was falsely declared as steel doors, the scanners would have been able to show that something was wrong.
Similarly, Deputy National President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, NCMDLCA, Uchu Block, explained that the placement of scanners by the ship side will ensure that all consignments are scanned before they are moved for stacking and also help in determining the selectivity of each cargo according to their risk profile.
He said he does not trust Customs officers to handle the scanners as anyone who knows what he or she is bringing in can insist that their consignment went for 100 per cent examination and with the connivance of Customs officers, such goods can be easily cleared.
According to him, “All the cargoes coming from the ship should pass through the scanner, scanners will detect all these things before you put them aside, separate them into high risk and low risk cargo.”
He also advocated the return to Pre-shipment inspection of cargoes at the port of import before the goods are shipped to the country.
According to him, “With the way we are operating the ports in this country, I tell you the kind of ammunition are entering the country, that one they see is just small. With what has happened, who are you going to hold? Is it the importer of the container who is almost of the time invisible, the agent that does not know the content of the container?
“We need those scanners that will detect all these things, even when there are scanners, corruption has so made it that if you have fore-knowledge of the content of the container, you will ask for your consignment to go for 100 percent examination and all you need do is to give the Customs money and such consignments leave the port no matter what is in it.
“The scanners need to be positioned by the ship side so that every consignment is made to pass through the scanners before they are taking to the stacking point where you can check the container and recommended for physical examination and it should be 80 percent not what the customs presently do.
“We should return to Pre-shipment inspection of goods, this will enable government to hold the company involved in the inspection abroad responsible if offensive items are found in any consignment handled by them. The Pre-shipment companies know what it means to their image should anything illegal be found in a container inspected by them.
“When there was Pre-shipment, we do not have the volume of ammunition that has entered the country since we started the Destination Inspection but during Pre-shipment. If it were Pre-shipment, such items can hardly come, if they come it will be very minimal than now that we have Destination Inspection.”