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Customs

Terminal operators accuse Customs of reversing gains of port concession.

Princess Vicky Haastrup, STOAN Chairman

—– attribute sluggish port processes, high port costs to physical examination of cargo 

—- Customs processes contribute 81.7 to costs of port operations

Eyewitness reporter

The Operators of terminals at the Nigerian ports have slammed the Nigeria Customs Service for reversing the great milestone recorded by the port concession programme of 2006.

The Chairman of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria(STOAN) Princess Vicky Haastrup, who ventilated the feelings of the operators, said the Customs’ incurable passion for 100 percent physical examination of cargo has set back the progress which the ports have made after exiting the chaotic, disorderly and sluggish port services that characterised the pre- concession era.

Princess Haastrup was speaking as a lead speaker at the one-day town hall meeting organised in Lagos yesterday by the League of Maritime Editors to discuss ”Achieving Effective Digitalization Nigeria’s Maritime Industry.”

The STOAN Chairman, who was unsparing in her condemnation of the damage the customs’ archaic cargo clearance procedures have done to the well being of the port industry, said that despite the gains recorded since 2006 with the efforts and investments of the terminal operators and the Nigerian ports Authority ( NPA), the Customs operations have continually been a drag on the efficient service delivery at the Port.

“The efficiency of our ports has improved multiple folds.

“Vessel waiting time has since been eliminated resulting in significant savings for importers and exporters.

” Government now generates revenue in trillions of Naira – through the tax authorities, Customs, NPA and NIMASA – as against the few billions generated before the concession.

“The concession, without a doubt, has increased the competitiveness of our ports and enhanced movement of goods across international borders.

“I am also glad to inform you that all terminal operators in the six seaports across Nigeria today have effectively deployed technology to drive their operations.

“Consignees and their agents do not need to be at the port physically with regards to their transactions with terminal operators.

“The question that may readily come to your mind at this point will be: why then are there so many people visiting the ports daily in connection with their consignments?

“Why is the cost of doing business at the port still high? Well, my answer to this question is Customs processes.

“Despite the tremendous improvements recorded in cargo handling operations and the provision of marine services by NPA, consignees and their agents still face numerous man-made hurdles at the port because cargo clearing processes have remained manual.

“Customs’ cargo clearing systems in Nigeria, using the words of a former CEO of Nigerian Shippers’ Council Mr. Hassan Bello, have remained “archaic”.

Haastrup believed that this outdated mode of goods clearance by the Customs has not only become a breeding method for extortion and corruption, it has also significantly slowed down the process of cargo clearance at the port.

“From the point of 100% physical examination of cargoes, the discretionary powers of Customs officers kick in.

“Negotiations and underhand dealings inevitably happen due to unbridled human contact.

“A study conducted by Akintola Williams Deloitte in 2017 blamed the high cost of doing business at the nation’s seaports on the Nigeria Customs Service and other government agencies.

“The study stated that Customs processes are responsible for not less than 81.7 percent of the charges incurred by consignees.

” It said Shipping Companies are responsible for 13.8 percent of the port cost; Terminal Operators 1.4 percent; Transporters 1.4 percent and Clearing Agents 1.7 percent.” she quoted.

Princess Haastrup maintained that a major reason for the high cost associated with Customs is manual processes.

She however stated that the only solution to this problem is for the customs to embrace automation in its cargo clearance process by reducing the level of manual process to about 10 per cent and engaging in the use of digital technology such as scanners

“The solution to this major obstacle is to drive the clearing process from end-to-end with digital technology.

“The human interface and the discretionary powers of officers should be taken out of the mix.

Haastrup lamented that manual examination of cargo by Customs has assumed an endemic nature which if not checked will continue to denigrate the efforts of the government to attain proficiency in port Operations.

“Manual examination of cargoes has assumed the proportion of an endemic sore point in Nigeria’s Customs administration.

”The Nigeria Customs Service performs 100 percent physical examination on almost all cargoes passing through the ports.

“This is not efficient and it constitutes a huge drawback to port efficiency. The manual inspection by Customs contributes in no small measure to the high dwell time of cargoes at our ports.

” It is also the main reason why importers and agents troop to the port daily. This is in addition to breeding corruption through numerous human contacts.

Haastrup also faulted the present arrangement by the government to procure a “few” scanning machines for customs.

She believed that apart from the fact that the number of the scanners procured is not enough, they should not be entrusted with the customs to manage for fear of sabotage.

She rather advocated for the engagement of the private sector to acquire and manage these scanners for efficiency as was previously done under the scrapped destination Inspection scheme.

“The solution is for the Federal Government to engage the private sector, as was done under the previous Destination Inspection scheme, to acquire high-end scanners for use of the Nigeria Customs Service.

“It is not enough to merely acquire a couple of scanners as the government is doing at present.

” A sufficient number of high-end scanners should be acquired to put a definitive end to manual cargo examination.

“The effective usage and maintenance of the scanners are also critical. Left in the hands of government officials, the scanners may be grounded in no time – as it happened before – and the system will be reset to the manual era.

“The services of risk assessment/management companies should therefore be engaged and retained for the purposes of providing, effectively utilizing, and maintaining the scanners.

” If we are truly desirous of creating efficiency at our ports, the manual examination will have to be reduced to less than 10 percent of the cargoes handled at the port, in line with international best practices.

 

“Full automation of the clearing process and the deployment of a sufficient number of scanners at the port will invariably cut down the multiple checks of cargoes by Customs and other security agencies” the STOAN Chief noted.
 

 

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Customs

Alleged cross- border smuggling of fuel: Fate of detained Customs officer uncertain — summoned, detained in Abuja

Owombo Segun John, the detained Customs officer
The Eyewitness reporter
The Customs officer, Owombo Segun John, who in a viral video last week, squealed  on alleged cross-border smuggling of refined petroleum products, with alleged official connivance, has been moved to the Customs headquarters in Abuja on the order of the Comptroller General of Customs,  Col. Hammed Ali(rtd) rt
According to Customs sources, the Customs officer, Owombo Segun, reportedly intercepted some fuel-laden tankers which allegedly wanted to cross to Cameroon, on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2022 but released the viral video of the incident on the 9th November, the following Wednesday.
Due to the viral video in which the customs officer alleged official connivance and threat to life, he was promptly arrested on the order of his supervising Controller Adesanmi Omiye in charge of Federal Operations Unit(FOU) Zone D, Adamawa, where the officer was attached to.
However, the source claimed that the officer, who has already been detained by his supervising Controller since November 9th, 2020, having been adjudged as of unsound mind by the Customs authority, was transferred to the Abuja headquarters on Monday, November 14th, 2022 on the order of the CGC.
Confirming the transfer of the officer to Abuja, DC Timi Bomodi, the Customs National Public Relations Officer, said this was to conduct further investigation and possibly to meet with the CGC while in detention.
“Yes, he has been transferred to Abuja for further investigation” declared Bomodi.
He queried the motive of the officer involved in the episode, adding that further investigation will reveal his real reason.
“I want the public to interrogate the motive of the officer and disregard his allegations of threat to life.
”The incident where he arrested the tankers drivers who have valid documents to show they wanted to discharge their products to the petrol stations within the Nigerian territory, happened on Wednesday, November 2nd but he did the video on November 9th, 2022.
“If they wanted to eliminate him as he claimed, he could have been killed between the 2nd when the incident happened and the 9th, when he released the video.
”He also failed to report to his supervisor of his discovery, if he had a genuine motive or he is of sound mind.
”Why didn’t he also report to the headquarters his findings?
”Neither did he report to any of the security agencies which any rational thinking- officer could have done in such a circumstance.
”He didn’t take any of these rational options of reporting the case but chose to make a video of the incident in incoherent words while he was half naked” declared Bomodi.
He said that the initial investigation into the matter has revealed so much information which he claimed will shock the public when it is released.
Bomodi said he could not say anything about the fate of the officer until the final investigation which will determine his real motive and fate
However, one of the siblings of the detained officer dismissed customs’ claim that Owombo Segun is of unsound mind
“My brother is a very brilliant man. Someone that was posted to Adamawa and has been working there since, how can you now say he is insane? That is a lie. They are just trying to cover up.”
“The claim that he was found naked is also not true. He told me that immediately after he released the video, he was attacked by some customs officers and tanker drivers. He even told me that if he is allowed, he has some evidence to back up his claim,” he added.
Bomodi however wondered why the said officer, whom he said has been operating for the past two years at Malabo Checkpoint on Belel Road, Adamawa state,  has not come out with such findings which he bandied in the viral video.
“The state in which this officer depicted himself in this video, his comportment and his speech suggests a level of incoherence associated with people of an unstable mind.
” Indeed, his actions led to his immediate withdrawal by the Controller Federal Operations Unit Zone ‘D’, who instructed his detention pending medical evaluation” the customs authority had retorted in a statement last week when the embarrassing video hit the public space.
A highly placed Customs source claimed that the fate of the incarcerated officer now hangs in the balance as he may be eased out of the service for the viral video which he said thoroughly embarrassed the Customs top hierarchy.
“Unless providence intervenes in his favour, the officer may be on his way out of the service” the source declared
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Customs

Customs demonises officer amidst claims of official complicity in smuggling of petroleum products across border

Comptroller Adesanmi Omiye
The Eyewitness reporter
The Nigeria Customs Service has described as an “unstable mind” one of his patrol officers attached to the Federal Operations Unit Zone D in Adamawa over his outlandish claims which indicted a customs controller of compromise in the smuggling of petroleum products across the Nigeria-Cameroon border.
The unnamed officer, in a viral video, showing fully-loaded tankers carrying Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as Petrol along Nigeria- Cameroon border, claimed that the products were being smuggled across the border to Cameroon.
The officer, speaking in Yoruba, further claimed that after he stopped the tankers with smuggled products, he was allegedly summoned by a customs Controller whose name he didn’t mention, claiming that he was being threatened for daring to stop the illicit act.
While pouring vituperation on the unnamed Controller, he said he has spent 11 years at the borders, stopping the smuggling of Nigerian oil across the borders, but was never rewarded with juicy postings to the choice commands in Lagos ports or Seme border.
Mr Adesanmi Omiye is the Customs Comptroller in charge of the zone.
Reacting to the embarrassing viral video, the Customs Service dismissed the claims of the officer whom it said was of an unstable mind.
In the statement signed by the National Public Relations Officer of Customs, Deputy Comptroller Timi Bomodi, the said officer has since been arrested and awaiting medical evaluation.
 “Nigeria Customs Service is compelled to respond to a recent video making the rounds on social media.

” This video depicts a half-clad individual recording himself while claiming to have arrested trucks carrying premium motor spirit across the border as an officer of Nigeria Customs Service.

“The facts are as follows; the person in the video is indeed an officer of Nigeria Customs Service, and he is currently attached to the Federal Operations Unit Zone D in Adamawa.

“This incident occurred on Wednesday 2nd of November 2022 at Malabo Checkpoint on Belel Road, Adamawa state.

” It is important to note that 55 kilometers separate this location from the nearest border.

“Between the place where this incident occurred and the border, there are fully operational petrol stations.

” Preliminary investigations indicate that the drivers on these trucks were in possession of duly signed product distribution sheets for consignments allocated by PPMC for filling stations within that vicinity.

” As vehicles in transit, they are considered still to be well within city limits and therefore can neither be accused of nor arrested for transporting goods across the border.

“All our officers are compelled by a strict dress code to not only be in uniform while on duty, but to adorn their name tags for easy identification by members of the public.

“The state in which this officer depicted himself in this video, his comportment and his speech suggests a level of incoherence associated with people of an unstable mind.

” Indeed, his actions led to his immediate withdrawal by the Controller Federal Operations Unit Zone ‘D’, who instructed his detention pending medical evaluation.

“The NCS seriously frowns at any action that is inimical to the economic well-being of our nation.

” Our battle with smuggling has been unequivocal and unyielding. Our checkpoints are usually manned by a team of officers all of whom are assigned specific responsibilities.

“The levels of checks and counter-checks created as part of the NCS strategic enforcement initiative have made it extremely difficult for breaches to occur.

“Nigeria Customs Service wants to assure members of the public of the commitment of its officers and men to securing our borders.

“We ask for your understanding in this endeavor even as we seek your prayers for those whose health and well-being may have been compromised by stress while carrying out their onerous assignment” the statement concluded.
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Customs

Ember months:  Lagos ports record low cargo clearance activities 

—as cash crunch hits importers 
The Eyewitness reporter
The usual frenzied tempo in goods clearance during the ember months has disappeared from the Lagos ports due to a cash crunch among importers.
Usually this time of ember months, there is always high frequency of clearance of goods at the ports by importers and their agents but such enthusiasm has considerably waned as fewer numbers of importers who could surmount the economic hardship coupled with the astronomical increase in Customs dues and tariffs are able to take their goods out of the port.
Curiously, the customs commands are posting huge revenues amidst this tight fiscal policy of the government.
For example, the Apapa Customs command, the flagship Command of the service which accounts for about two third of the annual revenue of the service, last week announced the revenue of N790.630billion within the first 9 months of the year(January- September).
The Area Controller of the command, Comptroller Yusuf Malanta Ibrahim promised that the command will likely gross a trillion naira in revenue at the end of the year.
Then where does this huge revenue come from amidst sluggish clearing activities at the ports?
It was gathered that the recent increase in the Customs exchange rate by the federal government boosted the monthly earnings of the customs.
It could be recalled that for yet another time in September, the Customs exchange rate was jerked up from $409 to $422.3, an increment of $13.3.
Comptroller Yusuf, while confirming the impact of the increase in the customs exchange rate on the revenue profile of the command, also declared that the increment has a negative impact on the clearing activities.
“The increment in the customs exchange rate has also led to an increase in our revenue” the Apapa Customs chief declared.
He however confessed that the increase in the exchange rate was an additional overhead cost for importers.
“It is an unexpected increase”
Explaining why the hustle and bustle in clearing activities during the ember months are lacking this year, Comptroller Yusuf said importers are hit by a cash crunch as they could not even procure loans from the banks to clear their goods.
” The increase in the exchange rate has become another overhead cost for importers as it is unexpected.
“Prediction of the market is becoming increasingly difficult for the to make.
“However, it depends on the market response.
” If the market forces respond positively to the increase, it is fine, if it doesn’t, that’s another challenge.
“That is where a good businessman will sit down and make an informed analysis between the operating environment and corporate environment where he operates” Comptroller Yusuf declared.
He however said that the cargo is there at the Port but the rate of clearing them is slow.
“The pressure is on the cargothrouput . The cargo is there.
”When you look at the Port, there is so much cargo but the issue is importers are finding it difficult to clear these cargoes because of lack of funds.
” They find it difficult to obtain loans from the banks to clear them, they are finding it difficult to get the right response from the market forces.
”Some of them have to clear part of their cargo, sell them to get money and use the amount to clear the rest of the cargo.
”This is why the cargo clearance exercise is lower now in this ember months as against other previous ember months
because importers lack funds to carry out this clearing process” the Apapa Customs command boss explained.
Conversely, the customs commands are grossing more revenue because, according to Comptroller Yusuf, the men and officers of the command are tirelessly committed to ensuring that all revenue leakages are mitigated as well as sustaining the level of compliance by importers and other stakeholders in the clearance value chain.
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