The Nigeria Customs Service has commenced investigations to distinguish genuine licensed agents from ‘brief case' agents, otherwise known as fake agents.
Shipping Position Daily investigation at the port showed that a high powered delegation from the Customs headquarters in Abuja have been deployed to entry points namely: Apapa, Tin Can, Seme and Murtala Muhammed Airport chapters of Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA)
The Customs team is expected to verify addresses ofclearing agents to ensure that they tally with what they submitted with the Customs.
Our correspondent learnt that the certificate issued to agents at the end of the investigation shall become one of the requirements to renew licenses for 2019.
Even though some of the agents told our correspondent that customs normally carry out the exercise yearly, our correspondent however learnt that this is the second time this exercise is being conducted in 2018.
It was learnt that in April and May 2018, some clearing licenses were blocked because when the customs inspectorate came from Abuja, they couldn't locate most of the offices.
Speaking with Shipping Position Daily, a clearing agent at Apapa chapter, Collins Iruegbu explained that the reason customs came for the inspection is to be able to identify the licensed customs agents that have existing offices.
"They are going around looking at offices to ensure that the agent working in the port comply with extant laws of the Customs, especially in terms of location of offices", Iruegbu stated.
Also speaking with our correspondent, Public Relations Officer of Tin Can Chapter of ANLCA, Emmanuel Onyeme said the Customs had found out recently that some of the licenses in operation do not have an offices.
"So this time around they have decided to go round by sending an inspectorate team from Abuja and start visiting offices to verify"
While confirming to our correspondent that some licenses were blocked earlier in the year, he said they were later released after much pleading.
"The Customs however charged those affected to perfect their documents. Some of them had different addresses on their documents while some carry fictitious addresses. On the Customs system, the only address found are no longer existing, hence customs find it difficult to communicate with the license owners"
"This is why at this time, they want everybody to get their documents perfected, opportunity is also made available to agents with different registration address to apply for change of address and perfect their document", he added.
Onyeme said that the ANLCA National Executive Committee (NECOM) led by its National President, Tony Iju had visited the Customs CG early in the year to plead for extension of the exercise.
He said, "this is the second time they are doing it this year, as at early this year when they first carried out that assignment, most of the agents were not aware, the National Secretariat of ANLCA comprising of the President went to Abuja where they met with the top management of customs and pleaded that they should give agents more time to be able to educate their people so that they can know the right thing"
"It was based on this that the inspectorate were sent back so that they can do their job and ensure that agents that do not have the opportunity to inspect their offices can do that and at the same time allowing those that have done earlier to perfect their document"
"Without the certificate to show that your offices have been inspected, you cannot renew your license, this is what they are using to renew licenses for 2019" he said.
The Tin Can team according to him is led by ASC1 Dikko, others are ASC Akor, ASC Dambala, and ASC1 Sule (Mrs)