Tin-Can: Baba- Musa Institutes Joint Examination of Cargoes By Agencies

By Stephen Ubanna

For Years, Customs officers and other Agencies personnel involved in the examination of Containerized cargoes at Tin-Can Island port  had been accused by stakeholders of creating artificial bottlenecks to extort money from them.

The extortion  situation at the port and other ports in Lagos  was so pronounced as agents   were said to pursue   Officers  with their documents  to facilitate  the examination of their cargoes. John Elekwachi, a Lagos based  clearing agent told the Magazine that Officials of the agencies had their asking price depending on the goods examined .

Elekwachi disclosed that  most agents had had their clients’  Containers delayed for  days at the ports before examination  because of their inability to pay the amount requested by the agency Officials. The Magazine learnt that the least amount   demanded by any of the Examination Officers was about N50,000.00 in order to append their signatures in the space provided in the  examination  document  to show that the Container had been Examined  and given a clean bill for release .

The  agents were also said to have taken advantage of  the high level of extortion  by the cargo Examination Officers  to slam heavy clearing bill on their clients  on  grounds that  the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A,  also need to  be settled for easy passage of their goods from the seaport to the importer’s warehouse  without  disturbance on the road.

 

 

Baba Musa Abdullahi

It was gathered that the least amount which they claimed  that could be used to settle Officials of the FOU on the Road and the Headquarters newly established  Strike Force based at the Customs Training College, Ikeja was N150,000.00. They may have be doning this   in the past and got away . But the deployment of Muhammed Uba  Garba,  from FOU, Zone C, Owerri  to the Zone A, Ikeja, in 2017, appears to have exposed the lies of the agents and their Customs Collaborators at the ports as  scores of Containers had been intercepted  along the Oshodi-Apapa Express Way  and transferred to the Ikeja Customs warehouse for  re-examination  by the Command Lagos Roving team led by Jack Okpabi, a Chief Superintendent of Customs.

The  lies of the agents against the Command may have forced Garba, the no nonsense Comptroller of the Command to be  hard on officers fingered to have aided and abeted bad jobs at the port. Sources told the Magazine that several officers including Assistant Comptrollers  caught in the act were said to have been invited to the Command’s office at Ikeja to extract both written and oral Statements from them . They may have played into the hand of the FOU, Zone A , Customs boss, because of their unconfirmed claims that  The Command officials are also being bribed  to facilitate the easy passage of their cargoes at the port.

Given the  embarrassment allegedly  caused  the  Customs Commands  by  suspected  Examination officers and their Customs Collaborators,    Baba- Musa. M.A, a World Customs Organisation and World Trained Organisation, WTO, trained  officer  who had replaced Yusuf  Barsha,  the former Comptroller of Tincan Island Command was said to have set up a  Cargo Release Study team  to ascertain  whathad been  causing the abrupt  delay in the release of cargoes at the port in particular. The setting up of the Cargo Release Study Team may have informed  the decision  of the Comptroller to re-jig  the cargo examination process at the port.

It was gathered  that the Enforcement Unit which was  hitherto a mere police Unit of the Command has been upgraded as the Command Cargo Examination Coordination Center. As a  prelude to clearing the mess at the port, Musa, the Comptroller was said to have made it clear to those that care to all listen that Cargoes  must be jointly examined at the same time by  the personnel  of the various agencies designated to carry out the examination of Cargoes at the port.

Many see the introduction of the  joint examination of cargoes by agencies  at the port   as a master stroke on the  examination officers who saw it as an opportunity to make cheap  money at the port.

Insiders told the Magazine  that since Nnadi Dera, a Deputy Comptroller of Customs took over effective control of overseeing  the Joint Examination Coordination center,  the  usual complaints of agents of extortion by   officers was said to   had reduced to the barest minimum. Analysts attributed it to importers with their agents change of attitude in doing business and imbibe the culture  of total  and willful  Compliance to the government  fiscal policy measures.

Only recently a  Presidential Monitoring Team were said to have visited the Command   to assess the level of Compliance  of the.   stakeholders to the government fiscal policy measures. Eyewitness account said they were surprised that  that stakeholders had fallen in line to the Tin can Island Customs boss s innovations and  policy measures at the port. This is a clear indication that areas of revenue leakage at the port may had been blocked for now  as the stakeholders  have learnt to do the right thing.

Maritime observers, had implored Musa and his men that it is   not yet time to say hurrah  as most of the bad eggs at the port and the bonded terminals  under the control of the Command  are still much on ground doing what they know best : bad job.  These alleged  bad agents, according to sources also know to penetrate the rank of Customs officials at the port to do their job and exit their cargoes without problem at the port.”

This is a big challenge to Musa, the Tin-Can Island Customs boss” and other Comptrollers at Lagos  seaports to be on the alert, an analyst remarked.

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