By Godwin Oritse
Reprieve has finally come the way of importers over the trapped third party containers at the Lagos ports as the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, has agreed to resume the clearing of over 5000 third party containers trapped in the wake of a suspension order.
The Customs service however noted that the reprieve carries a 25 percent penalty.
NCS had in January, via a circular signed by Deputy Comptroller-General in charge of Tariff and Trade, Issa Talatu, ordered the immediate stop to the clearance of goods that had discrepancies in the names of importers and other information provided in the clearing documents.
Specifically, the customs authority said it was alarmed at the increasing practice among freight forwarders, who clear goods with Form M, Bill of Laden and Pre Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) that carry different names from that of the consignees, referred as third party consignments.
In the circular, Customs boss, Hameed Ali, had directed all Area Controllers to suspend the release of such consignments till further notice. Over 5000 containers were said to have been affected by the order and were trapped at the Lagos ports as a result.
To compound the misery of the distraught importers, who have severally appealed to Ali for an amnesty over the trapped containers, the Customs helmsman also deployed multiple units of ad-hoc task force teams whose operations were said to be duplication of customs duties.
However, the Customs boss may have acceded to the appeal for amnesty on the trapped third party containers as he has directed that Area Controllers of Customs commands should resume their clearing procedures.
It was further gathered that the compliance team deployed by the Customs boss from Abuja to superintendent over the issue has been withdrawn.
Alhaji Tanko Ibrahim, Vice-President of Western Zone of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) who confirmed the development, however said that the amnesty granted on the controversial containers was not without a cost. He disclosed that the owners of the trapped containers will pay 25 percent of the total payable duties as a penalty.
The NAGAFF VP commended Ali and Talatu for what he described as their timely intervention to bring succour to the freight forwarders and promised that the agents would not abuse the privilege given to them.
He also said that apart from the withdrawal of the compliance team from the ports, the Customs boss has promised to withdraw other ad-hoc teams from Customs clearance procedures at the ports.