THREE YEARS AFTER BAN: DTI Café Operators Say We In Business Because Most Clearing Agents Are Illiterates

Three years after they were shut down by the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed  Alli over high level of fraud and abuse, operators of Direct Traders Input (DTI) Cafes are still thriving at Nigerian ports.

In the wake of the ban, Customs management had issue passwords to licensed customs agents in other to protect their licenses and prevent fraudsters from making use of them.

Investigations by Shipping Position Daily, however, revealed that sadly 80% of the clearing agents and freight forwarders are illiterates when it comes to Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and this has brought back the DTI Cafes.

Confirming this to our correspondent, Managing Director of a popular DTI Cafe in Apapa, Mr. Seyi Gbajabiamila said that the DTI operators have now changed their mode of operations and this has made it difficult for customs to clamp down on them.

He said that right now, the DTI Cafes have transformed into ordinary Cyber Cafes who render assistance to freight forwarders and clearing agents who do not understand how to operate the password for data capturing.

Mr. Gbajabiamila said that most of the agents who patronize the cyber cafes do not have offices nor access to computers.

With scraping of DTI, the Customs boss had assured that licensed owners would begin to input their import clearance documents from their offices as a means of curbing the abuse which the introduction of DTIs were subjected to.

But, the cyber café operator said: "We are no longer operating as a DTI, we are now operating as a business centre, we are not registered on any company's name, we are not forcing agents to come and patronize us"

"If you know how to do your capturing, you can bring your job, input your password, you are not giving us your password, you do the data capturing by yourself, "We don't have any connection with the Customs, we only have our internet".

Explaining further, he said, "clearing agents come over and use our facilities and pay for the service, they already have their password and user name which Customs issued to them, we are not the ones keeping their password and username anymore, this was what we did before and that's why we were called DTI centres"

"Before now, the agency usually entrust you with their password, but now, they would be the one to come and make use of our internet and computer"

"We make our money because some of freight forwarders are not conversant with use of computers, so what they do is give us their password to assist them. Per job, we charge them N1,500", he said.

Another operator who pleaded anonymity told Shipping Position Daily that the DTI operators are now standing as secretaries to the agents as most of them don't have offices, they don't have secretaries and don’t have access to computers.

He however confirmed that the atrocities and hacking of licenses as being perpetuated in the past have reduced as a result of Nigeria Customs Integrated System (NICIS).

According to the source, now whenever passwords are hacked, it means that the person in charge of the password has been careless or has sold out his trust to someone who compromised.

“Clearing agents cannot do without coming to us because they know we have the expertise", he boasted.