Years after there ejection, there are fresh indications that a syndicate that specializes in issuance of fake customs documents for cargo clearance, popularly called, 'canteen boys', may have resurfaced at Nigerian ports, especially Lagos ports.
Confirming this to Shipping Position Daily last week, Public Relations Officer of the PTML Command of Nigeria Customs Service, Mohammed Yakubu said that the customs recently busted a fake documentation syndicate operating at the popular ‘Container Complex’ which houses several clearing agents at the Tin Can Island Port.
Yakubu said that some persons were arrested by the command and were handed over to the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) for prosecution.
He also confirmed to our correspondent that the notorious group is still operating at the port. He however said that with the coming of the Nigerian Customs Integrated Information System (NICIIS) 2, their operations have dwindled.
According to him, the fake documentation ring is further encouraged by clearing agents who want to cut corners and cheat the government by not paying correct duty on their vehicles.
He said, "If you pay the actual value that has been given to you by Customs at PTML, I can assure you that nobody would query you or stop the car anywhere"
"However, some of the agents normally go outside and collect fake value, this is what we have discovered, not too long ago, we arrested some people at the container complex who specialize in issuing fake value and we handed them over to the FOU, this was a long time ago, I do not want to bring it back, but I think this ring is still existing, it has only minimized with the coming of NICIIS 2", he said.
Yakubu said that the NICIIS has been able to address short payments in customs duty more than previous platforms like ASYCUDA.
The customs image maker also lampooned freight forwarders protesting the issuance of access cards by Grimaldi Shipping, owners of PTML terminal.
Yakubu described those freight forwarders as touts masquerading as licensed customs agents.
"There is no way that we would allow just anyhow person into the port without him being a licensed customs agent, once you are a licensed customs agent, you have a free access to the port because you would be given an access card"
"Each license is entitled to seven access cards. We are now trying to get Grimaldi to offer 10 cards"
"The people protesting the access cards are touts. There has been an instance where a tout who calls himself a clearing agent, poured water on an assistant controller"
"The terminal operator (PTML) is trying to sanitize the area and make it a user-friendly port, this is why it is called a modern port", he said.