We lack mechanisms to intimidate Customs officers, says Compliance Team…Insists no rift between ANLCA, NAGAFF
The 100per cent Compliance Team of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders NAGAFF has said it lacks the mechanisms to intimidate, harass or extort money from officers and men of the Nigeria Customs Service, contrary to insinuations in some quarters.
The group also insists that there is no form of rift between the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents ANLCA and NAGAFF, its sister association, especially the compliance team, saying that both have a high level of synergy and understanding, especially on core issues of making the seaports efficient and effective for all operators.
National Coordinator of the group, Ibrahim Tanko, who spoke with newsmen Monday in Lagos in reaction to a petition dated December 8, 2020 and addressed to the Customs Area Controller, Apapa Area 1 Command, Comptroller Mohammed Abba-Kura by the Zonal Coordinator, West of ANLCA, John Ofobke alleging intimidation, harassment and blackmail of Customs officers by the leadership and members of the task team.
The petition is entitled: ”Internal Memo Highlighting incessant demand for jobs, favour, intimidation, harassment and blackmail of your officers by one Ibrahim Tanko and his 100per cent Compliance Team from NAGAFF”.
It reads in part: “Information reaching us from impeccable source shows that a lot of officers in your command are groaning under the weight of constant demand for ‘jobs’, gratification, intimidation, harassment and name -dropping by Ibrahim Tanko of the 100 per cent Compliance Team from NAGAFF.
“We in ANLCA take exception to this trend because of the long standing relationship with us spanning over six decades…”
Tanko, while reacting to these allegations wondered how a civilian group that neither has power of arrest nor bear arms could intimidate Customs officers, who both have power of arrest and also bear weapons.
He noted that the team has a very high level of regard and synergy with the leadership of ANLCA, arguing that the position of Ofobike, who he alleged is on suspension and about to be expelled, does not in any way represent that of ANLCA.
On the allegation that the coordinator was intimidating officers by name –dropping of very senior officers of the service, he noted that since he assumed duty to lead the team, he had visited the three mentioned bonded terminals which include Mid-Maritime, AML and Denca, insisting that the visit was in company of the journalists, who saw things for themselves.
On the allegation that he seeks for jobs, he noted that he is primarily a freight forwarder with license and goes out from time to time to look for jobs just like other members of the team or any other freight forwarder because they will not stop looking for jobs to do because they’re in the compliance team.
He said: “The Compliance team is a civilian organisation and it does not have power of arrest nor carry arms. But Customs is a Federal Government agency, which has both powers so I am still wondering how we can intimidate or harass the officers.
“I just believe that Ofobike is trying to be noticed and that whatever he is doing does not in any way represent the views of the membership and leadership of ANLCA because there is no rift between ANLCA and NAGAFF since we are in synergy with the leadership because the National President even visited NAGAFF recently.
“Since the inception of the team, we have concentrated on our members and the importers alone, sensitising them on the need to do the right thing so that the process of clearing cargo would be smooth and easy. When you make true declaration and pay the right duty and any one stops your container on the way, you will not have any fear and even if they take the container to their warehouse and re-examine it, they will find out the truth and I am sure they will release it immediately.”