The Nigeria Customs Service has debunked the claims that its personnel were frustrating the 24 hours’ port operation mandate of the Vice President; Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
The defence comes on the heels of Shipping Position Daily report of last week where the Association of Nigeria Licensed Agents (ANLCA) alleged that the NCS masterminded the failure of the 24 hours’ port operation.
Recall that the National Vice President of the Association, Dr. Kayode Farinto had stated that the 24 hours’ port operation directive was thwarted by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and some other agencies at the port.
While alleging that after NPA rolled out a road map on how the 24 hours’ port operation will work, officials of NCS at Tin Can Port arrested NPA officials who asked them to do the right thing, he also alleged that men of NCS could not work round the clock and as a result there were loopholes in achieving the 24 hours’ port operation.
However, reacting to the allegation, the Public Relation Officer of the NCS Tin Can Island command, Mr. Uche Ejieseme stated that the allegation is far from truth, informing that NCS was in full support of the 24-hour port operation directive and have no reason to thwart the directive.
He stated that before the 24 hours’ directive came, Customs had begun round-the-clock operation in some areas, while stressing that Customs alone cannot work in isolation as it is the responsibility of all the agencies at the port to make the 24 hours mandate work.
He however gave an insight into some of the constraints, he disclosed that Customs cannot work 24 hours in some areas, because the banks do not operate 24 hours, which makes it difficult for clearing agents to pay duty on their consignment.
“Regrettably, we read from your publication where the writer insinuated based on some of the first narrative he heard from some stakeholders, that customs are flaunting the procedural directives of the 24 hours’ port operations. But it is very instructive to note and it may also interest you to know that prior to the advent of this 24 hours’ operation, custom has been operating certain specialized area and have been on 24 hours’ basis.
“For instance, Customs operatives are always available at the enforcement unit because vessels that are arriving from far country must be boarded and examined, because the law provides that any vessels that comes, Customs must go boarding and rummage
“At the enforcement unit, we discovered that the operatives are there, as soon as the directive came on the issue of 24hours port operation came, the gate became very compliant with them, when you finish your documentation and it just remain to take delivery of your consignment, the gate are always there, they work for 24 hours.
“Customs cannot not operate while the banks are not operating, that is why we are saying by the time you are done with your documentation and it just remains to take delivery, it is very easy for one to go and take delivery at the gate because the gate are always open 24 hours. Don’t expect us to be there without paying the duties while the banks are not working.
“It is a function of all the relevant agencies, they must actually be on ground to be sure that it is working. If anybody says that we are flouting the order, it means the person is not being fair to the Customs. If you are on ground and really know how we function, if you visit the gate during weekend and holiday, you will realize the gate is always open and people are taking delivery of their consignments”, he said.
Ejesieme also debunked claim that NCS arrested NPA officials who instructed the NCS officers to comply with the directive.
“Also, it’s funny and laughable for somebody to say customs will arrest NPA officials. There are occasional friction and disagreement in policies; it can never lead to Customs arresting NPA official. And I am sure that nobody can provide any record of being arrested by the agencies”, he stated.