The fiery Vice-President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents(ANLCA), Kayode Farinto, has condemned what he described as a vain attempt by the Nigeria Customs Service to demonise one Adeyemi Quadri, the young freight forwarder, who was shot in the leg by a member of the roving team of the Federal Operation Unit(FOU) on Mile 2 road.
Farinto, who is also the Managing Director of Wealthy Honey Investment Nigeria Limited, claimed that the Customs resorted to this unorthodox method in a bid to hush up the unfortunate incident that could have claimed the life of the Customs broker.
Speaking in his office yesterday, Farinto said it behooves him as a senior stakeholder in the industry and in his personal capacity as a licensed customs broker to speak up and expose the antics of Customs in its attempt to sweep the incident under the carpet after all his efforts to settle the matter amicably has been rebuffed by the Customs.
It could be recalled that on March 17th, 2021, there was a shooting incident at the Mile -2 axis of Tin Can port where an officer in the Roving team of the FOU shot and fatally wounded a Customs broker over a dispute on 2019 RAV4 Toyota SUV.
The incident generated a spat between the Customs authority, who claimed that the victim was trying to resist and obstruct the officer in his duty of arresting the vehicle which the Customs claimed fell foul of standard clearing procedure.
After the tensed atmosphere generated between the Customs and the confraternity of freight forwarders, the Customs authority, through its National Public Relations Officer, Deputy Comptroller Attah, in an interview with an online medium, declared that the victim of the incident was not a registered Customs broker but a tout who mobilised a mob in an attempt to overrun the officer to dispossess him of his gun, hinting at possible prosecution of the victim.
However, Farinto declared that nothing could be further from the truth the allegation raised by the National spokesman of the Customs which he said should not be allowed to stand if justice will be done in the case.
He challenged the Customs PRO to provide proof of his claims that the shot victim was not a Customs broker but a tout.
“Am speaking as the Managing Director of Wealthy Honey Investment Nig. Limited and a senior stakeholder in the industry and a licensed customs broker.
‘I read the statement made by DC Attah, the National PRO of Customs on the unfortunate incident at Mile Two where one of our members was shot and i can say that he goofed.
”He goofed in the sense that his statement was misleading Nigerians to believe that what happened at mile two was as a result of miscreants who attempted to take the gun of the officer.
“I challenge him to provide the proof of his allegations.
As a stakeholder and genuine agent, the onus is on me to let the world know the true position of the incident.
”What happened was that a customs agent, having followed the due process of clearance procedure, applied for valuation on 2019 RAV4 Toyota model and the vehicle was valued at over $12,000 with the surface duty of N1.7 million and other charges which amounted to N2.345million, which he duly paid.
‘After this, the vehicle was duly released and he took delivery of it and drove it out of the port.
‘At a point along the Mile two road, he was accosted in a commando style by one of the members of the roving team of FOU.
‘One of the team members, whom we suspected was not in a stable mind, shot the agent.
“This will take me to the issue of who is a customs broker.
Section 150 of CEMA empowers the Customs board to register us as clearing firms, but we can delegate functions and duties to our staff.
“This was what happened to the agent who was shot .He was working with a licensed Customs brokage firm and that made his a genuine customs broker unlike what Attah wanted the world to know.
‘But instead of Customs to come openly and apologise that what happened was a mistake, what they now did was to label him as miscreant and tout who is not a freight forwarder.
”This was an attempt to call a dog a bad name before they hang him but I disagree and challenge Attah to prove it” Farinto fumed with flaming fury.
‘Under CEMA, there is what is called precarious liability which means that whatever any of the staff does, the owner of the license under whose the staff operates will be held liable.
”This particular staff paid all the duty accrued to the government.
”We shall not accept the attempt by the Customs to label the agent as a miscreant”, he declared.
Farinto, who was brandishing a sheaf of document for the payment of necessary duties by the wounded agent, declared that the clearance of the vehicle followed due process as all the duties and charges as assessed by competent Customs officer, were fully paid and the vehicle legally exited.
According to the sheaf of document that was made available to our reporter, the Vehicle, a RAV4 Toyota 2019 model was valued at $12,748 with surface duty of N1,700 ,080.00 using an exchange rate of N381 to a dollar and 35 per cent rate of duty and HS Code 8703.
The valuation officer, according to the Nigeria Customs Service Valuation Assessment Form, who duly examined, assessed and duly released the vehicle, was one Nwankwo, a Deputy Comptroller of Customs with service Number 4115, signed and dated the form March 15th, 2021.
In the Assessment notice by the Customs, the surface duty and other charges assessed and duly paid was N2,345,929.00
The break down of the assessment and payment include N1,700,080.00 as surface duty, N119,006.00 as surcharge, N24,287.00 as ETLS and N502,556.00 as VAT.
The total amount assessed and paid was N2,345,929.00
The declarant with C no 4814RC143708, was Rightful Soil Nigeria Limited while the Company name is Cajetan Egbufoama 24490638-0001.
The declarant paid the full duty in cash with receipt number R-44559 and dated 16/03/2021 at GTB.
The assessment Notice carries C44053 dated 16/03/2021 as Customs reference while declarant reference was 2021/ESHE with assessment reference A 44908 16/03/2021
Farinto, said having paid all the necessary duty and charges, the FOU roving team had no justification to accost the agent and even shot him.
He accused the Customs of hiding under the absence of uniform tariffs on vehicles which he alleged they used to harass and extort agents.
He claimed that all attempts by the ANLCA to prevail on the Customs to take a cue from their counterparts in Ghana who use uniform tariffs on vehicles proved abortive.
He accused the officers of frustrating the process of harmonised tariff on vehicles for their selfish interests.
”I have on several occasions begged the Customs authority to give us uniform tariff on vehicles
”Nigerians need to know that for instance, a tariff on 2019 Camry differs at Tin Can, Apapa and PTML. They pay different values because of the arbitrariness of duty.
”We have received many complaints from our members over the extortion and arbitrariness of tariff on vehicles and asked the Customs to take a cue from Ghana where we even offered to sponsor officers of the service to go and understudy their system.
”In Ghana, your VIN number is imputed into the system which will give all the details on the vehicles such as year of manufacture, mileage on the odometer. With that, your vehicle will be valued. You cant lie.
”But here in Nigeria, they prefer arbitrary imposition of tariff.
”I have it on good authority that the CGC has directed that there must be uniformity of value but this has not been implemented.
”We are tired of arbitrary value, we are tired of giving bribes.”, the ANLCA Chieftain declared.
He said that it was inhuman and callous by Customs to label the young agent who was shot as a miscreant.
”The officers act with impunity and feel they can get away with anything they do.
”But not this time around because we are going to fight and get justice for the innocent and unarmed agent who was brutalised and shot by an officer we strongly suspected was not in a stable mind.
” The officer who pulled the trigger was psychologically unstable”
”From our own investigations, we found out that this particular officer has been living on psychotropic substance.
”You recalled one junior officer sometime ago who declared himself as the CGC. This incident has been hushed up.
”I challenge the Customs to bring out the officer who shot our colleague and subject him to psychiatric analysis and clinical examination.
‘Nigerians will be surprised at the level of psychotropic substance in his system.
”When the agent was shot, this particular officer was even threatening to give him water so he could die.
”There is no sensible officer with weapon who will say that. We are not at war.
Am challenging the customs to parade this officer and subject him to necessary examination to determine his state of mind.
‘This brings me to the disturbing issue of the state of mind of these Customs officers with guns”Farinto declared.
He appealed to the general public, especially the civil society groups, to rise up and help the wounded Customs broker get justice.
However, investigation by our reporter revealed that, while the Lagos FOU authority gave the wounded agent N200,000 in two tranches(N100, 000 by the Comptroller of Lagos FOU and another N100,000 by the leader of the Roving team) to off-set his hospital bill, the disputed Vehicle is still in the Lagos FOU detention, almost a month after the incident.
It was gathered that the Unit has slammed a DN of N3.5million on the vehicle as they alleged that the duty paid by the importer was a “compromised duty”
Farinto however disagreed with the position of the FOU which he described as an attempt to safe their face as there was no such thing as a compromised duty in CEMA.
He queried the competence of the FOU officers on assessment and valuation even as he declared that the unit was set up not to collect revenue but to act as the police of the Customs.
”The best the FOU officers, who are not trained in assessment and valuation, could do under such circumstance, was to return back to the releasing ports any consignment suspected of infraction in payment of duty”
He said that it was left for the importer if he would pay the DN which he described as arbitrary, illegal and inhuman but hinted that the matter could be taken to court which is the final arbiter in a dispute of this nature.
He accused the FOU customs of an attempt to whisk away the wounded agent while he was still recuperating at the hospital to an unknown place but ” i frustrated their move when i quickly moved the injured freight forwarder away before the Customs could carry out their plan”
NIMASA set to open Lokoja office to harness waterways resources
The Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, has disclosed that the Agency is set to reopen the Lokoja office, as part of efforts towards harnessing the Blue Economy, enhancing collaboration, while also promoting Research and Development.
The DG, who made this known when he played host to the Executive Secretary of the Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency (KADSEMA), Mal. Usman Hayatu Mazadu at the head office of the Agency in Lagos, noted that investment in research would play a major role in ensuring the harnessing of Nigeria’s maritime potentials.
“The key cardinal principle of opening the NIMASA Lokoja office is to improve on Research and Development.
He said, “Now, the Blue Economy has come to stay and very soon you will see the impact of what we have; in terms of the gains and benefits to grow our Gross Domestic Product while improving the well-being of our own Economy”.
Earlier in his remarks, Mallam Usman of KADSEMA lauded the Agency for the feat achieved so far, which cuts across the entire Nigeria.
Prince Nwokeabia rallies support for Comptroller Ukpanah, CAC Enugu/Anambra/Ebonyi\command, as she assumes office
She took over from Comptroller AM Adegbite who was re-deployed to Edo/Delta Area Command.
Customs, UN agency collaborate to fight smuggling
“On behalf of the entire Management Team of the Nigeria Customs Service, I wish to inform you that we will partner with you in this campaign, and we will grant you all forms of support you may need to carry out this campaign — and I want to assign one of our amiable DCGs, Abba Kura, to work with you closely.”
He appreciated how they traveled from afar to inform the Nigeria Customs Service of their campaign against smuggling, which, according to him, the Nigeria Customs Service has already started yielding positive results in suppressing the menace of smuggling.
The CGC also welcomed Dr Raymond’s offer to engage officers and men of the Service in capacity—building to enhance their understanding of digital literacy skills, adding that the Service has already started embracing technology to advance its work by introducing related courses to officers.
The CGC appreciated the collaborative effort between the Nigeria Customs Service and UN—Habitat and believes that the collaboration signifies a commitment to tackling smuggling and enhancing trade facilitation in the nation, setting the stage for a more prosperous future.
He also appreciated their pledge to train officers and men of the Service in digital literacy skills, assuring that the Service will continue to prioritize proficiency in the fight against smuggling through a technological approach.
He underscored the importance of digital skills, promising that the relevant Service department will enhance trade facilitation.
On his part, the Director of UN—Habitat, Dr. Raymond Edoh, appreciated President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for reposing the responsibility of heading the Nigeria Customs Service on the Acting Comptroller-General, describing him as “a competent Customs officer who knows the terrain and masters the job.”
According to him, they decided to visit the Ag. CGC at the Customs Headquarters to express their interest in partnering with the Service.
He appreciated the Service for being a “gatekeeper of the country” that protects citizens against border threats, stressing that his organization will collaborate with NCS to mitigate the smuggling of illicit goods and train officers and men of Customs on digital literacy skills and certification.
UN-Habitat is the United Nations entity responsible for developing urban policies and translating them into action to create sustainable cities and promote viable urban development and adequate shelter for all.
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