Customs escorts, importers divert dry port transit cargo, says CG …Insists on physical examination before release
The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali has said that the service will continue to carryout physical examination on consignments meant for the various Inland Dry Ports IDPs, also called Inland Container Depots as part of measures to check the excesses of some importers and Customs escorts.
The CG, who spoke at recent stakeholders’ meeting on the removal and auctioning of overtime cargo held in Lagos as part of efforts to decongest the ports, was reacting to complaints by some importers, freight forwarders and even terminal operators that the practice where consignments designated for the IDPs are being subjected to 100 per cent physical examination before releasing them, which causes delays with the attendant increased cost implications.
These stakeholders had argued that it amounted to double jeopardy and avoidable waste of time and resources to subject such transit cargo to 100 per cent physical examination since they would go through another process of examination on their arrival at the designated dry port before they are released to their owners.
But the CG, who foreclosed any possibility of reversing this policy at least for now, disclosed that some officers and men of the service, who are deployed to escort such containers sometimes, connive with their owners to divert them to unknown destinations.
Apart from outright diversion of the consignments, according to him, there have also been several instances where the containers on arrival at the IDP are discovered to have been tampered with, which informed the decision of the service to carry out skeletal physical examination on the containers to ascertain their actual contents.
He also disclosed that he directed the various Area Controllers to just break the seal of the containers, glance through to know their contents not total physical examination, adding that the aim was to ensure that illicit goods were not taken to the country’s hinterlands, given the current social and security situation in the country.
“What we do is not 100 per cent physical examination. What we have discovered is that some of the owners of the transit goods connive with escorts and in some cases, we discovered that some of the consignments were tampered with en-route the IDPs so we decided to just cut the seal of the containers and have a glance at their contents.
“Our main concern is that we do not want to allow illicit items to move into our hinterlands, we are interested in ensuring that illicit items do not enter the hinterlands. We are doing everything to enhance full compliance and as soon as we achieve that, this examination will stop. Our officers and the owners of the cargo must come to a level where they operate within the law.
“We are not interested in the cargo that goes to the dry ports, what we are interested in is to make sure that illicit items are not moved into the hinterlands. We are doing everything possible to ensure full compliance and as soon as that is achieved, that will stop and so you have to bear with us for now because it is a temporary measure. Our officers and the owners of the containers must come to a level where they implement the laws of the land.
“We do not know whether some of those containers are loaded with arms and ammunitions because we do not want anything that would go and cause more trouble for us in the hinterlands and so our best response is to verify what is going to the dry ports first before they leave the ports because of the integrity issues around some Customs escorts and importers” he said.