The newly designed 24 hours clearance of consignments under the fast track scheme at the nation’s ports has run into an early hitch over alleged extortion of operators by Customs officers.
This major setbacks at the seaports in Lagos, followed alleged frustration by officers and men of the Nigeria Customs Service on escort rosters.
Operators lament allege extortion by Customs officers over cargo escort from ports
Operators lament that the 24 hours port operations would be impossible to attain if the practice persist stressing the need for customs officials on escort duty to be present for fast track consignments to exit the port timely.
The operators are alleging that customs officials demand monies from shippers and freight agents before attempting to escort consignments out of the ports.
Fast track, otherwise known as customs fast delivery, is the process whereby consignments belonging to multinational companies are allowed to exit the ports without examination until the items get to their warehouses.
The essence of fast track is to avoid congestion at the port and to also aid speedy clearance of goods.
The process also deals with high volume of consignments owned by multinationals and are usually routed on the green lanes at the ports and customs escorts are required to accompany the goods to the required destination.
Confirming the development to our correspondent in Lagos, yesterday, Chief Boniface Okoye, Chairman and Managing Director, Bonntex Logistics Integrated Global Limited, lamented that the attitude of customs officials designated for escort has truncated trade facilitation overtime.
Okoye alleged that the process to assign escort to fast track consignments has become cumbersome leading to extra charges at the expense of the shippers.
According to him, the escort officials determine the exit of the consignments, saying that they (escorts) decide when, and time, to discharge their responsibilities.
Mr Okoye, who is a member of National Council of Managing Director Licensed Customs Agents, (NCMDLCA), called on the Controller General of the service to alleviate the plights of shippers and freight agents, because the delays experienced, lead to additional cost of doing business in Nigerian seaports.
He alleged that the customs collect N1000 per container adding that most consignments under fast track are always in high volumes.
“If you want to clear about 30 containers at a stretch under fast track, the customs will charge N1000 each before they will decide on the date to storm the port”
“The customs are not organise in their operations because as it is, the Post Audit, Federal Operations Units and Customs Intelligent Units (CIU) are not harmonised in their line of duties,” he added.
“We are calling on the Customs Comptroller General to intervene and address this issue once and for all”
The freight agents noted that 24 hours ports operations and that of customs e-clearance operations of goods from the port would be unachievable if its personnel continue to take their responsibilities for granted.
Similarly, an importer who prefer anonymity disclosed that the nonchalant attitude of the customs indirectly affect production of the multinational companies.
According to him, some raw materials stay in the ports for a long time due to the absence of customs officials who should accompanied the consignments to their respective warehouses.