Yuletide: FOU Customs operatives clampdown on business outfits…Allegedly demand N2m bribe
Strong indications emerged that many business owners in Lagos may be licking their wounds, as operatives of the Federal Operations Unit FOU, Zone A, Lagos of the Nigeria Customs Service have embarked on massive clampdown on business outfits, under which many shops and business premises have been sealed for undisclosed reasons.
Operatives from the FOU, Lagos numbering about four in a Toyota Hilux van with registration number HQ 303 CS had stormed some business premises penultimate week, shutting many of them without any cogent explanation.
Competent sources hinted that this clampdown has become an annual ritual, especially towards the Yuletide season, adding that no reason was given for shutting the businesses.
One of the owners of the closedown businesses located on Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway in Alimosho area of Lagos, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noted that the company has all the necessary import documents displayed in strategic places within the premises.
He disclosed that one of the operatives allegedly demanded for N2million bribe as a condition for re-opening the business premises.
“These are some of the challenges we face in this business. The problems begin when we file our documents to import the goods till the goods land in Nigeria. The processes of clearing the imported goods from the ports have become more rigorous and you are subjected to even more rigours while the goods are being transported from the seaports to the warehouses.
“But it is even more painful that we are subjected to the sealing of shops even after the goods have arrived their destination and we have all the relevant import documents without which we would not have been allowed to take delivery from the port terminals”, he further lamented.
Meanwhile, efforts to speak with the Customs Area Controller in charge of FOU Zone A, Lagos, Deputy Comptroller Yahaya proved abortive as he did not pick calls put across to him nor responded to a message sent to him on the matter.
Stakeholders have however been speaking on the difficulties they encounter while doing their legitimate businesses at the nation’s seaports, which many of them described as a gruesome experience.
They argued that apart from the very lengthy cargo clearing processes with the attendant high cost, an average importer or exporter would have to wait for weeks before his container would be fished out from stack by the terminal operator due to the perennial port congestion. The situation is made worse by the fact they will also have to face the harrowing experience of moving cargo in or out of the ports because of the gridlocks on the port access roads, which are in terrible state of disrepair.
They called on the government and its relevant agencies to begin to adopt ways of simplifying port operations, upgrade road and other transport infrastructure with a view to making them seamless and cost effective.