Customs agents and importers operating at a bonded terminal; Clarion bonded terminal, yesterday shut down the terminal in protest against alleged extortion and high handedness of the new customs officer in charge of the gate (OC gate) at the terminal.
The protesters, after obstructing activities in the terminal located on Old Ojo road at Satellite Town, Lagos, sent staff members and customers out of their offices.
They thereafter took to the street of Old Ojo road , amidst fireworks and obstruction of traffic, and called for the removal of the customs Officer in Charge (OC) of gate; Mr Peter Olaniyan for allegedly collecting illegal fee from them.
They said he introduced a controller’s watch list, a list where containers are placed on blacklist, a devise to extort money from them.
One of the protesters, Ifeanyi John Paul called for the customs officer’s removal, saying “our demand is that OC gate be removed from such a small terminal like this. Do you know that this officer many times, will place our containers on what he called controller’s watch list.
“Then demand we pay the sum of N100,000 for each container to remove our container from the list. That is extortion. There is nothing like this in other terminals,”
Also, another protester; Okechukwu Ogbonna, , said he has lost over N10million to the customs’ demand.
They also accused the O.C gate of subjecting their containers to double examinations which has resulted in loss of time and money.
Explaining further, he said: “Shipping companies and terminal operators will charge you each container without government doing anything to the bad road. Instead of fixing the roads, they rather sent their watchdog to extort us.
“We are protesting against the double examinations by OC gate, an action since abolished by customs management. OC gate must go. Clarion bonded terminal is one of the best but the only problem is the customs officer”.
Another protester, Ejike Metuselah, an importer, revealed that the customs officer’s act was political. “What we are seeing here is someone using government officials against competitors.
“We are saying this victimisation must stop. We will not take it. Our question is, why do they want to send Clarion bonded terminal out of business? Nobody should be used against it”.
The protesters further revealed that no bonded terminal in Nigeria has customs officer in charge of gate except as seen in Clarion.
When Mr Olaniyan was contacted, with a wave of hand, he said “there is nothing going than personal issue between me and Madam (owner of Clarion).
However, in a swift reaction sent to Shipping Position Daily on Monday night, spokesman of the Tin Can Island Customs which is in charge of Clarion, Mr Uche Ejesieme said the allegation remains at the realm of imagination which is both inconceivable and outrightly fallacious.
According to him, the new OC gate has just introduced strict measures aimed at ensuring zero revenue leakage and that it is natural for humans to react to change.
He said the command will not lower it's guards in enforcing the fiscal policies of the federal government in terms of trade.
"However, this position might appear punitive, but is not in any way intended to victimize or frustrate any compliant trader or facility owner. We wish to therefore disabuse the minds of the general public to their allegations of extortion which triggered unnecessary and mindless protest leading to disruption of activities at the Bonded Terminal in question"
"We hereby enjoin importers and their agents to ensure strict compliance with import guidelines and avoid false declaration which may necessitate actions that might be viewed as high handedness"
"TCIP as a user-friendly port would like to reassure importers and their agents that we are still deeply committed to our resolve to reward compliance and transparency as the task of Nation building is a shared responsibility", he said.