The Nigeria Customs Service has launched an investigation into the whereabouts of four containers on transfer from Apapa Port to the Inland Container Depots ICD in Kano and Kaduna, saying it would descend heavily on any importer, customs brokerage agent or officer of the service that has any connection with the missing containers.

Zonal Coordinator in charge of Zone A, Lagos, Assistant Controller General ACG Aminu Dahiru, who gave the hint, said specifically that a total of six containers left the Apapa Port recently on transfer to Kano, four of which have yet to arrive the designated terminal in Kano.

According to him, checks by the service show that nobody exited four of the six containers while only two were accounted for at the terminal, an indication that four of the six containers are missing or have been diverted, under what he described as controversial circumstances.

He also disclosed that the zone is trying to unravel the circumstances surrounding some containers that left the Tin Can Island Port, also in Apapa, Lagos, which were later found in a private warehouse instead of the terminal the containers were designated for.

It was further gathered that some containers also got missing about six years ago, precisely in 2012, when the ACG was a Deputy Comptroller serving at the Tin Can Island Customs Command, a development the ACG has described as one, too many.

The ACG warned that in the face of deliberate diversion of containers on the transfer, the service would have no other option than to introduce a system whereby the bond paid on containers on transfer by the consignee would be the exact value of the container, as some corrupt people are taking the magnanimity of the service for granted.

He said: “There have been several issues on the transfer of containers to terminals in Kano and Kaduna, among several others and in several cases; agents are seen as major culprits in these matters. Recently six containers left Apapa Port for a terminal in Kano. On our checks, we discovered that nobody exited the four containers that had already left. When we also contacted the terminal, we discovered that only two arrived to my greatest surprise”.

“There were also movements of containers from the Tin Can Island Port, Apapa, the said containers did not arrive the terminal they were designated for rather, we traced them to a private warehouse. Definitely we cannot continue like this, I can assure you because this is lawlessness and no society thrives on lawlessness.

“We may be compelled to reintroduce payment on loss of cargo on transfer. For some time now, bond is never close to the value of the consignment and we may likely begin a review of this bond issue, which I believe has become very important and imperative, especially at this time”.

While warning that agents should be careful with what they do with their licenses, he however noted that there have been cases where the licenses of some agents were blocked for crimes they did not commit, which made him direct that the affected licenses be unblocked, warning that the service will not fail to wield the big stick where it has been established that a license was used in compromising trade processes.

The Zone A-boss urged the importers and their agents to keep their records and processes neat and straight, hinting that the service would re-invigorate its post-clearance audit unit, while warning that the long arm of the law must catch up with those who subverted the system whether now or in the future.

He therefore urged importers and agents to join hands with the service in its quest to enthrone a regime of international best practice in cargo processing at the ports, especially with the deployment of the Nigeria Integrated Customs Information Service NICIS II, which is an advanced version of the Automated System for Customs Data ASYCUDA++, which is also backed by the World Customs Organisation WCO.