Customs C-G says days of corruption gone

Col. Hameed Ali(Rtd.) the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), on Monday said corrupt practices would no longer be tolerated, be it by officers or clearing agents.

Ali said made the assertion while addressing stakeholders at his maiden working visit to the Apapa Area Command in Lagos.

“The days of corruption are gone. Anybody caught shall not be left to go scot-free.

“I am a stickler for the enforcement of the law.

“There is need for law and order, and it is important to follow the rules as they are so that we all do not have problems,’’ he said.

He said that his mandate as the Comptroller-General was to reform, structure the service and importantly, collect revenue for government.

He noted that it was possible for customs to clear goods from the port within 48 hours if there were no falsification of declaration of goods.

The customs boss said that in carrying out his assignment, he would ensure that all acts of cutting corners by some importers and agents were stopped.

Ali said in that regard, anybody culpable would risk being jailed because the greatest challenge had been that of non-compliance with the rules of operation.

He, however, assured the stakeholders of his readiness to deal with any officer found wanting by demanding money from them.

Ali also urged the agents to ensure that they got properly trained by way of capacity building, to help them function adequately as demanded by new technologies.

He said that had not come to make things difficult for operators, rather, he was there to ensure orderliness and conformity to the law to promote trade.

Stakeholders raised issues on challenges they were facing in carrying out their operations.

Dr Kayode Farinto, the Public Relations Officer of the Association of Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) raised the issue of obsolete and faulty scanners at the ports.

He also complained of incessant alerts coming from multiple sources, as well as the challenge of opening Form “M’’ due to the FOREX restriction by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

“We want the Comptroller-General to look into the problem of obsolete scanners being used at the port.

“It is also a problem now to raise Form M due to the CBN restriction on FOREX.

“All these cause delays in clearing cargo, so, cargoes are trapped in the port and we all know what that means,’’ Farinto said.

He urged the customs boss to make trade facilitation a cardinal point of his administration.

He also said the service should consider the law stating that operating customs license be issued only to corporate bodies and not to individuals.

Mr Chuks Ijemanze, a member of ANLCA at the Lillypond Command, lamented the lack of transfer of containers to the off dock terminal.

He said that the situation had left many customs operatives and agents alike, redundant.

Chief Eugene Nweke, President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), said the trading public should be sensitised on the need for compliance.

He also called on the management of the customs service to ensure that the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report be reviewed to become interactive.

He called for infrastructure development to reduce physical examination that consumes time.

Nweke also said it was important to have cargo profiled, and valuation done in due process.

Mrs Julie Ogboru, the Apapa Chairperson of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, complained of delays by terminal operators in positioning containers.

She also complained of the undue delays by the shipping companies and the customs in releasing containers.

Ogboru said it was wrong for the customs to issue and still be the ones to query the PAAR, which often led to delays.

She said that if those issues were addressed, the problem of corruption would be over and cargoes could be cleared within 48 hours.

Responding to some of the issues raised, the Deputy Comptroller-General in charge of trade and tariff, Akinade Adewuyi, said that from January 2016, agents would operate with passwords.

He said the passwords would check the fraudulent practices whereby some people use other agent’s license to operate without their knowledge.