Stories by Godfrey Bivbere
MORE controversies seem to be brewing around the alleged N150 million bribe offer said to have been rejected by some officers of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, in respect of tramadol consigment.
Feelers in the maritime industry have indicated that a close watch on the officials of the Customs by other regulatory agencies may have forced them to reject the offer.
Dropping this hint in a chat with Vanguard Maritime Report, a renowned freight forwarder and Managing Director of Shibab Services Limited, Babatunde Shittu, said that other government agencies, especially the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, were aware of the importation of the 40 containers of tramadol and were keeping vigil over the transactions between the importers and the Customs officials.
Shittu explained that it was difficult to ascertain whether the Service would have rejected the money if they are not aware that other government agencies were also tracking the consignments.
According to him, ”It is possible (the rejection) because the matter is an exposed case, nobody want to get his fingers burnt. So it is possible they rejected it.”
Asked what he meant by exposed case, he stated, “Exposed as many agencies are aware of it, so nobody want to burn his finger in collecting bribe in such a situation.”
On the situation of the freight forwarding business, he stated: “Generally, there are no much people in this business anymore because of the circumstances that surrounded the job.
“Before you collect money for a job, you will struggle all through because of the congestion, the transport charges; everything put together will consume the profits you are supposed to make.
“Is it alert (interventions by different units of Customs) here and there on the job, in fact they will squeeze you until you are dry and the thing is getting back to the consumer and most of the importers are tired.
“Most of the time you come with container, we are talking of 48 hours clearing time and that 48 hours is not realistic. Most of the people that are clearing are really tired and they are crying and there is nowhere to go and whom to report to.
“I do not see the Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC with their work of regulating everybody. If they regulate they cannot regulate Customs, Customs will not listen to them even the terminal operators they cannot regulate. So that is the problem,” he concluded.
Efforts to speak with the National Public Relations Officer of the NCS, Joseph Attah was unsuccessful as he neither picked his calls nor responded to test message sent to him.