Nigerian Freight Forwarders have expressed their dismay that the new Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) has failed to hit the ground running, more than 35 days after taking over from Alhaji Dikko Abdullahi.
The seasoned operators made the remark in a statement jointly signed by the national president, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, Fwdr. Eugene Nweke; the national president, NCMDLCA, Fwdr. Festus Ejiofor; Fwdr. C. A. T. Agubama and Fwdr. Frank Uko, both national president, NAFFAC and national president, AREFFN, respectively.
“The Freight Forwarders who are looking forward to be saved from the in explicable extortion in the ports are getting disillusioned. The expectation has been that by now the CGC should have visited the ports and strategic border locations with a view to conferring with the stakeholders,” the group indicated, stressing their expectation was indeed, fast “disappearing.”
“At the moment the rate of corruption has increased because of uncertainty. At present it is to grab whatever you can because you do not know what happens next. The instances of alert application from unauthorised units of APM’s desk, valuation, CIU, enforcement and others have continued in a regrettable proportion. The instance of frivolous and unsubstantiated demand notes from the valuation unit has become unbearable, including the extortion therein.
“The Comptroller General should hit the ground and be running to maintain the tempo of the anti corruption crusade of Mr. President. The impression at the ports at the moment is that he is being reluctant to effect his assigned duty, especially wearing customs uniform after 20 years of civilian life. If he does not hit the ground running on matters of corruption it may appear that Mr. President is not properly briefed about the corruption level in the Nigeria seaports and border locations.
“In the instance, there is the need to bridge the gap between the clearing costs at the seaports, airports and border stations. The inherent differential in the cost of clearing goods out of Customs control at Jibiya border, Idiroko and Seme with Onne ports, Apapa and TCIP are so much without realizing that the importers compete in the same market. Therefore the urgent need for universal application of value for imported goods in all Customs commands cannot be over emphasised.
“To achieve the mandate of reforms, restructure and revenue collection we expect that he should start by conferring with the stakeholders with a view to obtaining first hand information. If Col. Hameed Ali (rtd.) continues to confer only with officers it may be risky to the mandate of Mr. President and anti corruption crusade,” the freight forwarders observed further, stressing that they wish the Col. would not be too slow in mastering the ropes.
“The expected reforms and restructuring of customs is to the stakeholders an internal affair of the service. The interest of stakeholders is to the extent the CGC shall ameliorate the level of extortion, over valuation of imports and the impunity of officers to act to the contrary on Customs laws and regulations. The CGC warnings with regard to non-compliance to import regulations on matters of concealment, false declaration and untrue declaration in general have created a huge panic in the customs operations.
“The implication of the warning from Abuja without visiting the operational areas and recourse to issuance of demand notices over such infractions has created opportunity for the highest level of extortion in the ports. The CGC seem not to realise that every offense against customs laws in relation to revenue collection is about detention, seizure, investigation and prosecution. The concept of smuggling as far as customs matters are concerned is to the extent the exporter; importer, excise trader and licensed customs agents attempt to evade customs duty or importation of prohibited goods into Nigeria.
“The CGC should therefore be told that his pronouncement has increased smuggling activities in the customs ports through concealment, false declaration, under valuation, wrong description of imports etc. We shall be looking forward to meeting with him after the Sallah holiday because the government is losing so much revenue at the moment.
“The Comptroller General should simply understand that some customs officers who have been in the seaports by recycling their postings for the past 10 years must have to leave the port arena if he wants to tackle corruption in the customs ports and border stations. We must clearly state that we are tired of giving bribes in our profession. The option is to do the right thing now with a view to supporting the crusade of change in Nigeria.
“Other measures shall include but not limited to revoking customs licences which is allegedly owned by serving and ex-customs officers, activating the zonal offices for effectiveness, stopping of multiple alert systems and establishing a public data base for valuation of imported goods for customs purposes. When the CGC meets with the critical stakeholders like the freight forwarders and agents, we shall have the ample opportunity to speak our minds on so many issues that we feel will make him succeed in his mandate from Mr. President,” the body concluded, noting in the meantime, they will continue putting finishing touches to the compilation of names of government agents personnel’s that they considered very corrupt.


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