Clearing agents operating at Lagos seaports have frowned at the activities of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone, ‘A’ of the Nigeria Customs Service, they alleged high level of extortion among officers of the command.
The agents also accused the command of abandoning its core functions of guarding the land borders, which according to them has made the Nigeria land borders more porous.
The National Public Relations Officer of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) Mr. Raph Agbogu, told Shipping Position Daily in Lagos last week, that the activities of the FOU Zone ‘A’, have gone beyond the reasons for the formation of the units.
Agbogu reiterated that while the officers from the units are on the roads extorting agents, smuggling is on the rise at the land borders.
“What FOU ‘A’ does has gone beyond the reasons for creating them, it was formed by the former Minister of Internal Affairs, John Sagaya, it is specifically for the land borders to protect the land borders”
He however maintained that there is need for the functions of the various arms of the service to be properly stated.
“My fear is that, while they are here on the roads and seaports, the land borders are suffering, smuggling is on increase, smugglers are having a free day. And I don’t think they are contending them adequately while they are busy here doing all these things. I should expect a situation whereby these things are defined, everybody know his roles and why he is there, otherwise it is negating the efforts of the resident officers in the terminals”
Explaining further, he said in some terminals, before your job is released you will be forced to part with some money for officers from Customs FOU Zone ‘A’.
“I even know that there are certain areas when you go for clearance they will tell you that you must book FOU before they release your job and all these things are unnecessary extortions. If you go to terminals to release your jobs the reports kept coming in some particular terminal that the DC will tell you that you have to drop money for FOU zone ‘A’, because they can release your cargo.
It is a racket thing; it can be obtained in some terminals and won’t be obtained in another. And if you call FOU A, they will tell you that they don’t know what you are saying but the bottom line is that it is happening. This is putting agents and port users in jeopardy, most times people have consulted my office to interfere in the FOU issue”
Also speaking, the convener of Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders Importers and Exporters Coalition, Dr. Osita Chukwu, said that the primary role for the formation the FOU Zone ‘A’ is for land borders and not the seaports.
“FOU zone ‘A’ is supposed not to be a question; they have a primary role which is to guide the border, taking care of the borders. So the customs should put their house in order, there is no need of the FOU A in the seaports. Have you ever seen in other areas where you see them on the roads? They should be at the border to check on cargoes that have not been cleared. They are not doing well at all and because they are on the roads with guns collecting money from people our borders are very porous”, he said.