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 Five-Star Logistics deactivation: No demurrage reprieve for owners of trapped cargo —Investigation

—– as importers count losses over deactivation of the terminal
Eyewitness reporter
Owners of cargoes trapped at the Five-Star Logistics terminal following its deactivation from the Customs portal may not enjoy any reprieve on the payment of accumulated demurrage charges as the terminal operators have declared that they would collect the charges but may overlook storage charges.
This stance may however pit the terminal operators against its legion of customers who are daily losing millions of Naira in demurrage and values of their consignments, especially the members of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, who have vowed to drag the beleaguered terminal operators to court for redress.
Investigation revealed that the terminal, which was deactivated on July 6th, 2022 over unpaid N97.3 million customs assessment charges, may not be deactivated soon as the terminal operators are said to be insisting that the accumulated customs charges are not owed directly by them but by the owners of the cargo who the customs have failed to track.
According to a source in the terminal, Mr. Wolfgang Schneider, the former General Manager of Five Star Logistics Terminal had complained last year that Customs wrote the company about the investigation but did not provide full vehicle details to allow the terminal to conduct its investigation.

The source said that the VIN might be used by Customs to locate the defaulting freight agents, and he questioned what function the Enforcement Unit of Customs would have if the vehicles had actually departed the terminal without paying taxes.

The source accused Customs of mischief, claiming the action of the Tin Can Customs has demonstrated that the Service is more focused on getting the N97.3 million from the terminal than it is on ensuring that the guilty are brought to justice and that the anomaly won’t happen again.

The hardline posture of the terminal operators, which sources said may further compound the issue and prolong the agony of its customers, may have been responsible for the non-resolution of the matter when the terminal operators met with the Customs’ top hierarchy in Abuja last week.
A freight agent working at the terminal claimed that some of the vehicles associated with the N97.3 million in unpaid assessment demanded by Customs are thought to have entered the country through land borders.
However, manufacturers, some of whose goods are trapped inside the terminal, have condemned the action of the customs which they described as irrational and uneconomical.

Dr. Ikenna Nwosu, a member of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), criticized Customs’ actions as unreasonable and in breach of the WTO’s trade facilitation pact.

The economic expert noted that considering that the deactivated terminal enables Customs to generate over N150 million each day, the cost implications of closing the terminal’s access to the Customs portal are not prudent.

“This development raises concerns about Customs’ effectiveness.

” Technically, it is improper to close the terminal and halt business since port users were not given a heads-up to stop delivering cargo to the facility.
“Customs cannot impose taxes while preventing access to cargo” he declared.
Nwosu emphasized that the consignees in charge of the vehicle imports should be made to pay the customs, warning that consignees with Fast Track products and reefer cargoes would challenge Customs over the unplanned terminal deactivation.

Dr. Muda Yusuf, Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), asked Customs to develop more creative ways to recover their losses without interfering with trade and the supply chain.

Yusuf,  a former Director General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI, said that if a service provider violates the law or has compliance problems, the situation should be handled properly so as not to affect innocent business people.

“There ought to be a mechanism to penalize a service provider without permitting it to interfere with what its customers are doing.

“Importers of fast track and reefer containers are innocent in this situation and shouldn’t be required to pay for Five Star Logistics’ alleged malfeasance or noncompliance.
“Allowing importers to pay and endure the repercussions of crimes they did not commit will be unfair.
” We’re not saying that Customs shouldn’t penalize Five Star, but they can do it in a way that spares the innocent clients from the consequences” he noted.
Kayode Farinto, the Acting President of the Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) said that the association would take the terminal to court to seek redress over the losses being incurred by his members as a result of the deactivation.
It could be recalled that the association, last week, threatened that if the terminal failed to resolve the impasse with the Customs by Tuesday, July 19th, 2021, it would take the terminal to court.

”We shall approach the court soon to seek redress against breach of the agreement by the terminal operators” declared Farinto.

Meanwhile, owners of fast track containers and reefer containers trapped in the terminal over the deactivation, are currently groaning under heavy losses.

However, they expressed displeasure that other port customers were being inconvenienced, particularly those who had fast-track containers and reefer goods detained at the terminal.

meanwhile, a staff of the terminal claimed that only a small number of shipping businesses often arrive at the terminal with hundreds of new and used vehicles, noting that these shipping companies don’t send individual manifests, which is apparently what caused Customs to demand payment for the unpaid assessment.

Based on these findings, he suggested Customs conduct a forensic inquiry utilizing the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and emphasized that CEMA mandates declarants, who are freight forwarders, should be held accountable rather than the terminal operator.

Uche Ejisieme, the Public Relations officer of the Tin Can command of the Nigeria Customs Service, insisted that the terminal stands deactivated until it pays the N97.3 million debt.
”We are waiting for the directive from the headquarters to unblock the terminal only if they have paid.

”We only hope they pay on time so that business could resume at the terminal” the command’s image maker declared.

DC Timi Bomodi, the National Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Customs Service did not pick up several calls from our reporter.
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As Customs elevates 357 junior officers, Adeniyi charges new graduates to trigger change through continuous learning

The Eyewitness Reporter
The Nigeria Customs Service has elevated 357 junior service staff from the ranks of Customs Assistant I (CAI) to Inspector of Customs (IC).
 This significant decision was ratified during the 7th management meeting of 2023, chaired by the Comptroller General of Customs, Bashir Adeniyi on December 1, 2023.
The comprehensive promotion list encompasses both the General Duty(GD) and Support Staff (SS) personnel who excelled in the 2023 promotion exercise.
The breakdown of promoted officers is as follows: AIC to IC (246) GD, AIC to IC (37) SS, CAI to AIC (39) GD, CAI to AIC (27) SS, CAII to CAI (7) SS, CAIII to CAII (1) GD.
According to the statement by the Customs’ National Public relations officer, Abdullahi Maiwada, the  strategic advancement mirrors the visionary leadership of the
Comptroller-General, emphasising motivation, recognising excellence, and rewarding diligence within the service.
In extending his heartfelt congratulations, Adeniyi urged
the newly promoted officers to redouble their efforts in fulfilling the service’s core mandates of Revenue Generation, Suppression of Smuggling, and Trade Facilitation.
In another development, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi has emphasized the significance of embracing continuous learning for the recently graduated officers from Senior Course 9 and Junior Course 17.
He made this statement during the passing out of the Customs graduates on 8 December 2023 at the Nigeria Customs Command and Staff College Gwagwalada, Abuja,
The CGC, represented the  Deputy Comptroller General of Customs, Sa’idu Galadima, in charge of the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), highlighted the importance of professionalism and integrity and urged the graduates to uphold high standards in their service.
He also encouraged them to use the opportunities in their various commands and take calculated risks.
ACG Kingsley Egwuh, the Commandant of the Nigeria Customs Command and Staff College Gwagwalada praised the graduates for their dedication towards the betterment of the service and the nation.
Expressing satisfaction with their 100% success rate, he emphasized diverse training areas, including academic standards, proficiency, and weapon handling.
He said, “All graduates should give their careers a purposeful meaning, shun all vices against growth and development, and uphold the motto of the Nigeria Customs Service, which is Justice and Honesty.”
The Commandant revealed ongoing projects, including replacing dilapidated chairs in the college hall and installing solar panels.
ACG Egwu, while praising the graduates, expressed optimism that the acquired training would enhance their performance. He thanked CGC Adeniyi and his Management Team for their unwavering support, including approving an African Study Tour to Gambia, Ghana, Mozambique, and Tunisia.
Deputy Commandant and Director of Studies, Comptroller  Oluyomi Adebakin, stated that the curriculum of the Senior and Junior courses aims to develop human capacity and establish a more effective and efficient Customs allocation. She highlighted the dedication to enhancing officers’ skills and abilities with a high level of moral standards.
The Special Guest of Honor, Senator Isah Echocho, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Customs and Excise, highlighted the global economic challenges and stressed the importance of positively impacting society. He expressed hope that the graduates’ ability to advance in technological advancements would contribute to elevating Nigeria’s economy.
Similarly, The college hosted a regimental dinner night to honor the graduates of Senior Course 9 and Junior Course 17. The evening celebrated academic achievements and underscored the disciplined ethos of the Nigeria Customs Service.
Amidst the regimental splendor, the night served as a reminder of the service’s proud heritage and the graduates’ responsibility to carry forward the torch of discipline and tradition.
The structured rituals and ceremonial aura encapsulated the ethos of the Nigeria Customs Service, providing a fitting culmination to the accomplishments of Senior Course 9 and Junior Course 17.
The evening concluded with a sense of accomplishment and pride, marking not only the end of academic pursuits but also the beginning of a journey for these graduates to carry forward the values of the Nigeria Customs Service with honor and dedication.
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Maiwada, Customs’ chief spokesman, receives diadem over his public relations prowess

The Eyewitness Reporter

The  National Public Relations of the Nigeria Customs Service,  Chief Superintendent of Customs, Abdullahi Aliyu Maiwada, has been honored with the prestigious ‘Spokesperson of the Year’ Award by Spokesperson’s Digest, a division of Image Merchant Public Relations.

The event, held in Abuja and attended by distinguished personalities, showcased Maiwada’s exceptional public relations contributions and unwavering commitment to the Nigeria Customs Service.

In an exclusive post-award speech,  Maiwada shared insights into the driving forces behind his success.

“This accolade not only acknowledges my dedication but also inspires me to elevate my contributions further.

” My motivation comes from a deep passion for my work and the unwavering support of my dedicated team,” he stated emphatically.

Known for his dynamic leadership style, Maiwada attributed the success to the collaborative efforts of his staff.

He added, “Today’s recognition is a testament to the collective efforts of my team, serving as a motivating force to strive for excellence.”

Beyond the immediate team, Maiwada expressed gratitude for the motivational guidance he receives from the Comptroller General of Customs Bashir Adewale Adeniyi and his Management Team.

“He highlighted his belief in extracting the best from his work, adding, “I believe in getting the best out of my work, and this passion, combined with the support of my team and the guidance from my elders, has been the driving force behind my success.”

The National PRO, recognized not just for his professional acumen but also for his commitment to mentorship, urged organizers to continue appreciating the dedication and enthusiasm of media practitioners and agencies.

He emphasized the need to sustain a culture of recognition for those making significant contributions in their respective fields.

In his closing remarks, Maiwada extended heartfelt appreciation to the Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs Headquarters Adeogun Alajogun, who represented the CGC at the event for his unwavering support, acknowledging his pivotal role in his accomplishments as the direct supervisor of the Nigeria Customs Service Public Relations Unit.

The ceremony not only celebrated an individual’s achievement but also highlighted the collaborative spirit and dedication within the Nigeria Customs Service, reinforcing their commitment to excellence in public relations.

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Customs promises to mitigate impact of increase in duty exchange rate through trade facilitation 

The Eyewitness Reporter The Nigeria Customs Service has  again reiterated its commitment to trade facilitation when it promised to mitigate against the impact of the recent increase in duty exchange rate by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)

It could be recalled that on December 7th, 2023, for the umpteen time and the second time in four weeks, CBN raised the Customs duty exchange rate to N951.941 per dollar.The rate was jerked up a month ago in November from N770.88 per dollar to N783.174 per dollar.

The latest duty exchange rate has since been reflected on the Customs portal.

Before the latest increase, the exchange rate for customs duty in June was N420 per dollar before it was jerked up to N775 per dollar in July.

Shortly after that, it jumped to N778 per dollar before the latest increase to N951.941 per dollar.

However, the customs has explained that it would ensure that there is a minimum delay in the customs process in order to ensure customs agents take delivery of their cargo without incurring demurrage.

Explaining the position of the customs on the increase yesterday, Comptroller Dera Nnadi, the Tin Can Customs Area controller, said there was little the customs could do over the fiscal and monetary policies which he said are within the purview of the federal government while the customs merely implements them.

Comptroller Nnadi, who was speaking yesterday, December 7th, 2023 at the 25th silver jubilee anniversary of the League of Maritime Editors in Lagos, pleaded for the patience and understanding of the trading public and admonished them to comply with the policy for the good of the society.He said that the customs learnt about the latest increase just like any other Nigerian.

Nnadi, however, promised that the customs, especially his command, Tin Can Island Port, would try to optimise its service delivery by facilitating trade to minimize the anticipated delays and resultant demurrage in order to mitigate the effects of the sudden increase.

“We are all affected, including the customs officers, by the increase.

“There is no separate supermarket where they sell customs bread”

” We as Nigeria Customs officers, just like other Nigerians, woke up this morning( Yesterday, December 7th) to find out that the exchange rate, which is the yardstick for the collection of customs duty, has been jerked up.

” Before June/ July, it was 420 per dollar, by July, it jumped to N775 to dollars, shortly after, it jumped to N778 to a dollar and this morning (yesterday, December 7th), it was increased to N951.941per dollar.

” We understand the implication of this on trade, bearing in mind letters of credit have been opened, contracts have been signed, supplies have been made, and people have negotiated business transactions based on the previous exchange rate.

” And we recognize the import of this exchange rate on trade.

” We recognize what the Nigeria business community is going through but there is little we can do as customs service about the fiscal and monetary policies.

” Our role is to implement them, we do not make these policies and we align ourselves with government decisions.

” Every decision taken by government is for the collective interest of the nation and we expect that we must all abide by it.

” As Customs, what we can do to mitigate the impact of what the trading public is going to go through in the next few days because of the increase in the exchange rate is to optimise our service delivery where there are expected delays in customs process to make up for this sudden increase.

“We will try to facilitate trade so that whatever little money you would have paid on demurrage, you can now use it to make up for this sudden increase and that is what I can manage.

“We do this because if the agents go back to their importers and ask them to raise additional funds to augment the one they have paid because of the sudden increase, the importers may find it difficult to raise the money and there will be delay and the attendant demurrage.

” So what we can do as customs service, is to minimize these expected delays through facilitation of trade.

” The Nigeria Customs Service cannot manage the other aspect of price increase because that is the function of federal government directive” Comptroller Nnadi explained in a very comprehensive manner to exonerate the customs service from these sudden increases in the exchange rates.

He however believed that most of the trade activities in Nigeria are being heavily subsidized by the government which makes citizens of the neighbouring countries cross the borders to Nigeria to buy goods in Nigeria.

” But I am by no means justifying the incessant and sudden increments in tariff.

” But Nigerians must be patriotic enough to obey government policies when they are issued because every government policy is issued in the best interest of the people” the Customs chief sermonises.

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