Lagos – Clearing agents operating at the Apapa Port in Lagos have accused the Apapa Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) of lateness to the examination of cargoes.
This is coming after Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo recently accused customs officers of not coming to office on time for examination of cargoes, thereby frustrating the federal government’s drive to improve the country’s Ease of Doing business.
The Apapa Chapter Chairman of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Emeka Enwelu, said the examination of cargoes at Apapa has gone down from 300 to 200 containers per day due to the officers’ attitude to work.
According to him, “Customs officers come for examination around 12p.m-1p.m daily. That is the actual time they come for examination and we have discussed so much on the need for them to come early for examination to know what to be done, and for us to get our cargoes out in good time.
“Instead, we spend a whole day on examination before coming the next day for release. That is not trade facilitation, except they can start by 10 a.m as advised by the government.”
Enwelu further stated that because of the delay experienced, clearing agents find it difficult to examine and release goods the same day.
He said agents were being forced to return the following day for the release of their consignments, thereby causing increase in storage charges.
“If customs conduct examination and write the report, we can get our cargoes, but when they start late they find it difficult to write the report because the whole day has already been wasted. If they start at 12.00 noon, they can never cover up.
“They used to do 300 containers but now it is less than 200 containers per day because of the three-hour delay by customs examination officers,” he said.
Another clearing agent, Chijioke Ebuka, however, urged the federal government to ensure that customs adhere strictly to the implementation of the executive order.
He also stated that delay experienced at the examination bays affect the number of cargoes released daily.
He said: “Doing away with delay is part of the vision of PEBEC but the Apapa Customs officers are making the gains disappear. We want officers to come in good time so that goods can be released same day after examination.”
He alleged that customs had written to be exempted from the executive order, stating, however, that, “customs cannot be bigger than the country and the law of the land because they are a creation of the law.”
Meanwhile, the Command Public Relations Officer of the command, Nkiru Nwala, has refuted the claims, stating that for the avoidance of doubts, the examination bays are not owned by the customs but the terminal operators, just as there are other federal agencies involved in the cargo examination process.
She said: “As the custodians of the examination bays, the terminal operators position the cargo for inspection and notifies the customs, which in turn informs other relevant agencies to assemble for examination. This has been particularly so since the implementation of the Executive Order on the Ease of Doing Business at the ports, which empowered customs to coordinate the other examining agencies.”
Nwala explained that there are many terminals in the Apapa Port Complex, wondering how the agents came about the statistics being bandied about that released containers dropped from about 300 to 200 allegedly because customs officials do not arrive early for inspection.