Freight forwarders and licensed customs agents has on Monday grounded operational activities at Clarion Shipping Bonded Terminal, Alakija Lagos over alleged extortion by an Assistant Comptroller of the Nigeria Customs Service deployed to the facility.
The operators alleged that the top official of the Service have been frustrating clearance of vehicles and containers from the facilities since his deployment to the vehicular bonded terminal.
The aggrieved freight forwarders and licensed customs agents with placard inscriptions like, “O. C. Gate Olaniyan Must Go Now”,”We cannot work with a business killer ,he must go” and We don’t want to work with the O. C. gate.
Other placards on display include :” Comptroller Musa has increased the cost of doing business beyond our understanding “, “Our documents have been trapped at Clarion Terminal Since Last Week “.etc.
It was gathered that the OC gate who is as an Assistant Comptroller was alleged to have imposed additional charges in the cleaning procedures of consignments.
They took to the street of Old Ojo road, Alakija, Lagos, amidst fireworks and obstruction of traffic, calling for the removal of the customs Officer in Charge (OC) of gate, Mr Peter Olaniyan for collecting illegal fee from them.
While addressing journalists at barricaded entrance gate of the terminal, Public Relations Officer, Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN), Ejike Metuh lamented that the customs officer’s act was political. “What we are seeing here is someone using government officials against competitors.
“We are saying this victimisation must stop. We will not take it. Our questions is, why do they want to send Clarion bonded terminal out of business? Nobody should be used against it,”
The protesters further revealed that no bonded terminal in Nigeria has customs officer in charge of gate except as seen in Clarion.
When Mr Olaniyan was contacted, with a wave of hand, said “there is nothing going than personal issue between me and Madam (owner of Clarion).
Speaking with Ifeanyi John Paul, one of the importers called for the officer’s removal, adding that “our demand is that OC gate be removed from such a small terminal like this. Do you know that this officer many times, will place our containers on what he called controller’s watch list.
“Then demands we pay the sum of N100,000 for each container to remove our container from the list. That is extortion. There is nothing like this in other terminals,”
Also, Okechukwu Ogbonna, one of the protesters, said he has lost over N10million the customs’ demand.
They also accused the O.C gate of subjecting their containers to double examinations which has resulted to loss of time and money.
“Shipping companies and terminal operators will charge you each container without government doing anything to the bad road. Instead of fixing the roads, they rather sent their watchdog to extort us.
“We are protesting against the double examinations by OC gate, an action since abolished by customs management. OC gate must go. Clarion bonded terminal is one of the best but the only problem is the customs officer,”
While responding, Public Relations Officers, Tin Can Island Command, Mr. Uche Ejesieme, of Tincan said the controller has dispatched a team led by Deputy Controller to investigate the situation.
“We want to reiterate that the command has platforms where issues like this can be channelled for expeditious attention/action.
“Our mantra still remain zero tolerance for corruption in line with global best practices.
“Am sure, within two hours, we will be able to come up with what is wrong there,” he noted.