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Customs

CTN as panacea for insecurity,  importation of contraband goods through ports.

Since the collapse of scanners at the nation’s  seaports and land borders,  the Nigeria Customs Service has been using manual method(100 percent examination)  to inspect cargoes but experts believe that  re-introduction of CTN at the ports would minimise the high incidence of insecurity through curbing of importation of arms and ammunitions through our ports into the country.

Eyewitness reporter writes

In 2015, the Nigerian Shippers Council was desirous to re-introduce the Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) into the nation’s maritime industry.

But this was met with stiff opposition especially from local Manufacturers who thought it will add to cost of doing business at the ports.

But, the  Council at that time was interested in the overall national security and safety of Nigerians because it is believed that the CTN will help check importation of arms, ammunition and hazardous materials into the country.

Two years after the council bowed to pressure and suspended the laudable projects, arms and ammunitions were being imported freely into the country but few are being intercepted in and outside the nation’s seaports, a situation the council want to avert through the CTN but was thwarted by stakeholders.

For instance,  in January 2017, the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone A of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) intercepted 49 boxes containing 661 pieces of pump action rifles.

The ammunitions were intercepted by officers of the federal operations unit (FOU), Zone A, Ikeja, in a Mark truck with registration number BUG 265 XG, the 40 feet container with number; PONU/825914/3 along Mile 2 Apapa Road, in Lagos.

Thee boxes were concealed with steel and other merchandise goods.

Also in  May,  2017, another 440 pump action rifles were intercepted at the Tin Can Island Command, Lagos.

According to the then Zonal Co-ordinator of the Zone, Monday Abue, the cargo was shipped into the country from Turkey and concealed in POP.

On the 7th of September, 2017 another 1,100 rifles were further intercepted in a 20ft container  with No GESU2555208 during examination, while the Bill of Lading falsely indicated wash hand basins and water closets.

A week after, another container with about 475 pump action rifles with container number, CMAU189817/8 carrie about 475 pump action rifles.

However,  2018 was not spared as the Customs Service intercepted live ammunitions at the Tin-Can island port.

The Tin-Can Island Command of the service said the live ammunitions were concealed in a vehicle and container at the Lagos Port.

It was gathered that the interception were done in two different operations on the 9th and 10th of July respectively.

According to the Public Relations Officer of the command, Uche Ejiesieme , the first incident at the Terminal ‘C’, involved 1 x 40ft container No. TGHU 60143419, which on scheduled examination was found to contain 150 rounds of live ammunition and jack knives while  149 rounds of 38mm calibre live ammunition, 92 rounds of 9mm calibre live ammunition, 2 rounds Of 7.62MM calibre live ammunition,  11 cartridges of live ammunition,12 expenses empty shells of various calibre and one empty magazine were uncovered in another vehicle.”

This is part of the few interceptions that were made by the service while  many more may have eluded the eagle eye of the customs service.

But, stakeholders have argued that the CTN, if it had been  implemented in 2015 ,would have detected the contrabands before it was loaded on vessels to Nigeria.

Even,  the Central Bank of Nigeria agreed that the CTN would not only checkmate under declaration and share trade information but will also assist the Nigeria Customs Service to risk mitigation on imports, enhance and block revenue leakages at the ports.

Speaking, a frontline Importer, Ikechukwu Shedrack ,said the CTN would serve as a security measure to ensure safety and security of goods shipped from one part of the world to another.

“It is meant to be implemented worldwide. The regulation requires shippers to have a Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) accompanying all shipments.

“The CTN will help enhance security at a time Nigerian government is have difficulties in replacing obsolete scanners at the ports. It will give information of cargoes to be imported even before loading and it will help know what should be imported and what not to be imported into the country, especially if it were to be arms and ammunitions it will be intercepted at point of loading”

“Aside under declaration, the CTN will also bring trade information.

Research had also shown that the CTN, when reintroduced, is different from the old ways of monitoring cargoes as it has four distinct features from the previous tracking device.

It is noteworthy that, as can be seen from the agreement, four important features distinguish the current ICTN Scheme from the abolished version.

That is, the current scheme will be implemented at no cost to the shipper/consignee, at all and the current scheme is web based and therefore paperless,thus making the delay associated with obtaining Cargo Tracking Note and associated documentation by Shippers, under the abolished version of the scheme completely eliminated as the shipper needs not do anything apart from declaring in advance (i.e. at the loading port), information relating to the cargo.

Also,  the one hundred and fifty dollars ($150) per container CTN fee charged under the abolished version, paid by the shippers, which led to the stakeholders vehement protest against the scheme and its eventual abolishment, was radically modified and reduced to a token administrative fee of twenty five dollars ($25) per container, thereby making it the lowest in our West and Central African Sub-region.

This became necessary not only in view of Nigeria’s volume of trade but also to substantially downplay the insinuated revenue generation motive of the old version of the scheme in favour of the actual and more important Trader Information Generation motive which has tremendous potential to impact positively on the nation’s effort in Trade Facilitation, National Planning and National Security;

The NSC-TPMS Sharing Ration of the collectible Administrative fee was negotiated and reviewed from 60-40, under the abolished scheme, to 65-35 thereby raising the share accruable to the government.

Also,  all vessels loading and unloading or in transit (Export/Import and Transit) departing from Nigeria Ports or having Nigerian Ports as final destination or transiting through Nigerian ports shall, before any movement, obtain a Movement Reference Number (MRN).

The MRN will be allocated to the vessels by Nigerian Shippers’ Council irrespective of the origin of the vessel of cargoes.

 The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, Barr. Hassan Bello had then disclosed that the CTN would be reintroduced to help curb importation of arms and ammunition into the country.

He said, “The Cargo Tracking Note would soon be reintroduced at a very negligible cost. CTN is a security thing because when we have it, there won’t be smuggling of firearms and all other contrabands.

” Smuggling of contraband won’t happen because everything coming in will be tracked, we will know the weight of the cargo, values and materials used.”

Bello stated further that the CTN would also help the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and National Agency for Food Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to fight substandard products and fake drugs respectively.

 “SON and NAFDAC will benefit by knowing whether products being imported are fake or not.

“I am calling on all the port stakeholders such as manufacturers, shippers and the rest to support this. That is why the Nigerian Shippers Council wants to develop the port community system because what the port needs is unity.

” There is need for everyone to come together on a platform to know what the other is doing. It is good for data collection for planning and for you to know your customers,” said Bello.
But the desire of the Shippers’Council to reintroduce the controvesial CTN was not to be at that period as it  was again aborted as stakeholders effectively shut down the move despite the efforts of the council to convince them.
But the country may once again have a shot at the CTN few years after  it was shot down by the sceptical stakeholders.
Following the resurgence of insecurity in the country which has assumed a verocious dimension, the Federal government has asked the Nigerian Shippers’Council to resuscitate the move to reintroduce the controvesial CTN to track all imports in order to identify and curtail importation of arms and ammunitions into the country through the ports.
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Customs

Exclusive! Customs heads to court to vacate injunction against Customs concession project

CGC, Ali

 

—-accuses aggrieved litigants of pulling out of project

Eyewitness Reporter

The Nigeria Customs Service has instructed its legal team to head to court in a bid to vacate the restraining order on the implementation of the $3.2billion Customs concession programme.

A Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday has restrained the Federal Government from enforcing or giving effect to an agreement on the Customs Modernisation Project otherwise known as E- custom allegedly executed by its agents on May 30, 2022.

Justice Inyang Ekwo issued the orders while ruling on an ex-parte motion filed by two firms – E-Customs HC Project Limited and Bionica Technologies (West Africa) Limited, which was argued on Friday by their lawyer, Anone Usman.

However, the Nigeria Customs, through its National Public Relations Officer, Deputy Comptroller Timi Bomodi, said the service will go to court to challenge the order.

In an exclusive interview with our reporter, Bomodi declared that the management of the agency will not engage in what he called small talk over the matter that is already in court because that would be sub-judicial.

”We will go to court”, he declared emphatically.

We can’t be making small talk over a matter that is already in court, that will be sub judicial.

”Customs will make its reaction in court and that will be for the public to judge what the issues are”, the Customs spokesman stated.

He further explained that the litigants, E-customs HC Project Limited and Bionica Technologies (West Africa) Limited, pulled out of the agreement on their own accord when they said they could not accept the terms and conditions of the projects.

Bomodi stated that the Trade Modernization Project Limited; Huawei Technologies Limited and African Finance Corporation, who eventually won the concession bid, agreed with the same terms and conditions that the litigants rejected for the same amount.

”The people that took the Customs to court were in the beginning part of the process, they disagreed with certain parts of the agreement and they couldn’t go forward.

”Of course, if you have some people who disagreed with what you are planning together and they pulled out and they were not asked to leave, they pulled out on their own, does that mean because they were there in the beginning, the project cannot go on?”, he asked rhetorically.

”That doesn’t make sense.

”The project was conceived to help the service better and those that we started the journey together couldn’t agree with the terms and conditions of the project and they left and some other people came in to take up their slot.

”Those ones said they could achieve the same results with the same terms and conditions which the other party rejected” Bomodi said.

He stated that the Customs shall argue its case in the court and will leave the judge to decide the merit or otherwise of the case.

Customs shall be in court and do the needful”, the Customs spokesman concluded with emphasis.

The court, on Friday, also issued an order of interim injunction against the Federal Government or its agents acting through the Federal Executive Council from retrospectively ratifying the decision to concession the Customs Modernisation Project also known as the e- custom project to Trade Modernization Project Limited, Huawei Technologies Company Limited and African Finance Corporation.

The restraining order issued by Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Abuja Division of the court shall last till the hearing and the determination of a suit brought against the Federal Government and other parties by two aggrieved companies.

The two aggrieved companies, E-customs HC Project Limited and Bionica Technologies (West Africa) Limited jointly challenged the alleged unlawful and fraudulent concession of the E-custom project to the defendants.

Counsel to the two aggrieved companies, Anone Usman, had on behalf of the two plaintiffs, argued an ex-parte application praying the Federal High Court for the interim orders against the defendants to protect the interest of his clients.

Justice Ekwo, while ruling on the ex-parte application, granted the prayers of the plaintiff having placed sufficient evidence of interest in the concession project.

The judge also granted permission to the aggrieved companies to serve a writ of summons and all other filed processes on the African Finance Corporation at its head office, located in Ikoyi, Lagos through DHL courier services.

Defendants in the suit are the Federal Government of Nigeria; Attorney-General of the Federation; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning; the Infrastructure Regulatory Concession Commission; Nigeria Customs Service; Trade Modernization Project Limited; Huawei Technologies Limited; African Finance Corporation and Bergman Security Consultant and Supply Limited being 1st to 9th defendants respectively.

Justice Ekwo subsequently fixed June 28 for the hearing in the matter.

The two plaintiffs had in their statement of claim narrated how they proposed to carry out customs modernization project through several government officials for the benefit of the Nigeria Customs Service.

They claimed that after a series of meetings and negotiations with some of the defendants, President Muhammadu Buhari granted anticipated approval for the e- custom Project

They averred that on September 2, 2020, the Minister of Finance presented a memo number EC2020/153 to the Federal Executive Council, (FEC) the highest decision-making body of the Federal Government, and secured approval for the two plaintiffs to be granted the concession.

Plaintiffs further claimed that trouble started when the Nigeria Customs Service unilaterally reviewed the FEC approval and imposed other conditions among which are the shareholding formula and governance structure.

They claimed that the power of the NCS to unilaterally review FEC approval was protested and that the Comptroller General of Customs stood his ground.

Plaintiff asserted that to their surprise, they read in the news that the Nigeria Customs Service had executed a concession agreement with Trade Modernization Project on May 30, 2022, Huawei Technologies Company and African Finance Corporation, in total breach of the Concession Agreement vetted by the AGF in conjunction with the Minister of Finance.

They averred that Trade Modernization Project was incorporated April 2022 at the Corporate Affairs Commission with one Alhaji Saleh Amodu, a close friend of the Comptroller General of Customs as the chairman.

Plaintiff asserted that the new company, having been just incorporated in April 2022, could not have obtained and did not obtain the full business case compliance certificate from the Infrastructure Regulatory Concession Commission and the approval of the Federal Executive Council to carry out the e- custom project.

They, therefore, asked the court to make a declaration that the decisions of the Federal Government and its agents to enter into a concession agreement with Trade Modernization Project, Huawei Technologies Company and African Finance Corporation in respect of the e-customs project is illegal, null and void, having been made in gross violation of Section 2 of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission Act 2005.

They also asked the court to declare that E-customs HC Project Limited is the approved and rightful concessionaire for the e-customs project as approved by the Federal Executive Council at its meeting of September 2, 2020 and in line with Section 2 of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Act.

They also applied for an order of the court directing the Federal Government through the AGF, Finance Minister, ICRC and NCS to consummate the E- custom project with the 1st plaintiff as approved by FEC in September 2020.

Besides, the two plaintiffs asked the court to compel the defendants to pay them a sum of Two Hundred Million Naira as the cost of litigation.

The Federal Government had on May 30, 2022  signed the e-Customs concession agreement with Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) and China’s Huawei Technologies Limited.

The Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Hameed Ali, while signing the agreement in Abuja, enthused that the implementation of the project will generate a revenue of $176 billion over the next 20 years.

Ali said, the e-Customs concession project would ease the cost of doing business, boost revenue, enhance productivity and put a stop to every arbitrariness in the service.

“The $3.2 billion e-Customs project to be financed by the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) and managed by Huawei Technologies Limited under a 20-year concession window, when fully implemented, will quadruple Customs’ current N210 billion average monthly revenue collection” Ali declared.

The agents who allegedly executed the disputed concession agreement are the Nigeria Customs Service, Trade Modernization Project Limited, Huawei Technologies Company Nigeria Limited and African Finance Corporation.

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Customs

Apapa Customs frustrates covert attempt to exit illicit drugs from port

—–intercepts 300 cartons of tramadol in separate seizures
Eyewitness reporter
Deploying intelligence through credible information and collaboration with other government agencies, the Apapa Customs of the Nigeria Customs Service has intercepted a cache of illicit drugs in two separate seizures.
On Thursday, the command showcased 150 cartons of tramadol containing 4,500,000 tablets worth about N3.7bn.
100 cartons of these illicit drugs were interdicted in Jaelith bonded terminal while the 50 other cartons were uncovered at ESS Libra terminal, Ikorodu.
However, on Friday, the command, under the leadership of Comptroller Ibrahim Malanta Yusuf, showcased a similar seizure of 150 cartons of tramadol.
According to Comptroller Yusuf, the illicit drugs were laden in a 1x 20 container marked PCIU 0183241 which was declared as Static Converter and Switches.
Addressing journalists Friday at the APMT where the seizure was made, Comptroller Yusuf declared that the command received credible intelligence and the container movement was tracked, traced from the port of loading in Singapore through Hong Kong and China before it was intercepted at Apapa port, the port of destination, having passed through about four ports to cover its track.
Yusuf said that, when the container was offloaded at the APMT, the officers immediately ordered its dropping for examination before the importer could transit the offensive consignment.
“On examination of the container, there are 69 cartons of 250 mg tramadol and 81 250 cartons of tramadol.
Each of the cartons contains 72 rolls, each roll contains 10 packets, each packet contains 10 sachets while each sachet contains 10 tablets”, CAC said.
Comptroller Yusuf warned that Apapa Command is not a safe haven for the importation of illicit drugs as intelligence officers will continue to intercept such uncustoms goods.
He revealed that the command has a robust inter-agency collaboration with other government agencies and the closely- knitted bond among them has been solid, producing spectacular seizure results.
“We shall continue to arrest the perpetrators of this illicit trade and bring them to book” the Customs chief stated.
He declared that information to unravel the culprits behind the illicit consignment is ongoing.
“We have a bill of laden which is a cardinal point that there is a declaration and that is why we are able to trace and intercept this illicit consignment.
An investigation is going on and our searchlight is on the description of the consignee on the bill of laden” Comptroller Yusuf stated.
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Customs

20 containers of gold, silver ore stolen within Customs control in biggest heist operation.

Eyewitness reporter with agency report

The Mexican Customs Authority has announced the biggest heist in the history of the port when 20 containers laden with expensive gold, silver Ore and television disappeared from a freight yard within the Mexican Customs control.

According to the Head of Mexican Customs, Horacio Duarte, thieves stole the shipping containers this month from a freight yard in what was described as an organised crime.

Horacio Duarte told the Associated Press that the theft was the result of “a very serious organized crime operation.”
The region, known as the state of Colima, is dominated by the Jalisco Cartel, a semi-militarized group of criminals that is led by Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, a drug trafficker who is known as the most-wanted man in Mexico, as well as one of the most-wanted in the US.
The Mexican Employers Federation and Mexico Customs Regulations did not respond to a request for comment from Insider.

The theft took place earlier this month but was not reported until Monday.Local newspaper, El Pais, reported that over a dozen fully-armed thieves broke into a private freight yard near a port in Manzanillo, dubbing it the “biggest heist’ in the port’s history.

The thieves reportedly gagged the guards at the yard and took eight hours to pick out the high-value shipping containers.

El Pais reported that the men knew how to use the cranes and other gear at the location and connected the containers to several trucks before driving away.

“It is unprecedented, there had been no robbery of this nature before this,” Gustavo Adrin Joya, a spokesperson for the security department of Colima state, said in a statement to El Pais.

The goods have not been seen since then, the local newspaper reported.

Jos Medina Mora, President of the Mexican Employers Federation, told Associated Press the theft is a sign that safety concerns in the nation are growing.

El Pais reported that the port is a main thoroughfare for the cartel, especially for unloading synthetic drugs that are made in Mexico and sold in the US.

While freight theft is not uncommon, it is unusual for dozens of containers to be stolen at once.

 CargoNet’s Vice President of operations, Keith Lewis, told Insider freight yards can be a vulnerable place for high-value goods.

“A shipment is most vulnerable anytime it is parked,” Lewis said.

In 2020, cargo theft hit a record in the US as hundreds of thousands of shipping containers flooded ports and nearby shipping yards amid the supply-chain crisis.

Lewis said that multi-million dollar shipments like containers full of semiconductor chips or television sets are often fitted with security devices in the US, including covert trackers and specialty locks to deter thieves.

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