NCMDLCA: How Police delay release of cargo at seaports
Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris
BY FRANCIS EZEM
Port operators under the aegis of National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents NCMDLCA, have painted a gory picture of how operatives of the Nigeria Police, Port Command frustrate Federal Government’s Executive Order on Ease of Doing Business at the seaports by arresting and detaining duly examined and released containers by the relevant units of the Nigeria Customs Service, which are statutorily authorised to do so.
Recall that the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala Usman has often disagreed with other sister government agencies including the Police over the rampant cases of stopping and delaying of already cleared containers at the exit gate, which frustrate the ease of doing business policy of the government.
She had insisted that all the relevant agencies must evolve a one-stop shop examination of cargo where all of them would be present to participate in the examination and sign them off so that as soon as the cargo is released, it is allowed to exit the ports without further waste of time to check delays and congestion.
Deputy Chairman of the Council, Alhaji Kazeem Isa Aduwa, who spoke at a recent stakeholders’ forum convened by the Apapa Area 1 Command of Customs, lamented that imported goods now spend more time at the port exit gate than the examination bay; a development he argued makes a mess of the joint examination system introduced by Customs.
According to him, the situation is even made worse by the activities of some Police Officers at the Apapa Port exit gate, who deliberately lay wait for already cleared containers laden on trucks with a view to extorting the owners and in the process, delay such consignments.
He cited a recent case of some of such Police officers, who stopped a container belonging to his client on the flimsy excuse that they have intelligence that the container was laden with arms and ammunitions and therefore demanded for N100, 000 gratification as a condition for them to allow the container to go.
“These days, we spend more time at the Apapa Port exit gate than we do at the examination bays. Part of the reason for this is the activities of some Police officers who wait for already cleared containers laden on trucks. Recently I had a very bitter experience with them when they stopped a container belonging to us, claiming that they have security report that the said container was laden with arms and ammunitions.
“I requested to see the Commissioner in charge of the Marine Command but they would not allow me but rather demanded for N100, 000 bribe or they will call for a re-examination of the container. Of course I told them I do not have N100, 000 and as we speak now, they have dropped the container for another round of examination since I know that the consignment has nothing incriminating in it”, Aduwa lamented.
He also noted that apart from the menace of the Police officers, the automated transmission of the result of the cargo examination is now a ruse, as some operatives of some other security agencies derive pleasure in stopping containers at the port exit gate, when their designated representatives participated in the examination and release of the said cargo.
He therefore charged the management of Customs to liaise with the Police authorities as well as other security agencies operating at the ports to desist from detaining or delaying genuinely examined and released cargo, which is contradictory to the policy of the government on the ease of doing business.
Meanwhile, Customs Area Controller of the Command, Comptroller Bashir Abubakar, who took over the reins of the command the previous week, while commenting on the various complaints by stakeholders, assured them that he is at the command to facilitate trade and make things easy both for port service providers and users alike, warning that the command under his watch would not tolerate sharp practices.
He therefore warned that the only condition under which he would remain friends with the stakeholders, especially importers and clearing agents is for them to be honest and compliant in all their declarations, and also urged them to report any officer to his office who delays their documents after the necessary legitimate duty, levies and fees had been paid.