Nigerian Customs blocks operating Licenses at Tin Can Port
Alleging large scale sharp practices in the usage of their practicing licenses, the Nigeria Customs Service has blocked many licenses belonging to clearing agents at Tin Can Island port in Lagos.
There has been a sudden increase in the number of licenses which have been seized by the Customs, especially the Tin Can Island command of the service which has been labeled as the most notorious port.
It was gathered that in the past two weeks, many licenses belonging to freight forwarders operating at the Tin Can Island Port have been withdrawn due to alleged sharp practices and evasion of duties.
One of the victims who refuse to be mentioned told our correspondent that his license was blocked last week and that he was asked to come and retrieve it with the sum of N50, 000.
Another clearing agent, Mr. Adeleke Aremu who is the operational manager of Safeguard Global Services explained that many of the licenses where blocked as a result of short payment in duty payable on goods and as a result of other vices like the popular “M.O” (machine outside) which is a usual practice among clearing agents.
He explained that whenever the licenses are blocked, they are to be retrieved back at the Custom Zonal Headquarters at Harvey road in Yaba, Lagos, and that that depending on the offense committed, it can also be retrieved at the Tin Can Island long room.
When he was contacted for information about the development, the Public Relations Officer of the Tin Can Island Customs Command, Mr. Chris Osunkwo confirmed that the custom is forced to block licenses due to the high level of non compliance on the part of licensed customs agents.
“If there has been an increase in blockage, then it means there has been an increase in non compliance, they go side by side, the cause of these blockages are not farfetched, it is simply non compliance” he said
Osunkwo explained that “Before Customs will block your license you must have had a discrepancy in your documentation, they will invite you to come over and if you refuse they will block your license and shut you out”
He lamented that the Tin-Can Island Port has a high reputation for touting which according to him is one of the major problems facing the command; he said that touting at the command is caused by some clearing agents who post as godfathers and have so many boys working on a single bill of laden.
“Tin-Can Port is a vehicular port and it is a very busy port, if the licenses are blocked, it then means that the custom is doing their job, if not, many of these illegal cargoes would have been allowed to pass through the port”
“There was a time when out of 200 licenses operating in Tin-Can Port we were compelled to block 190, this happened last year or two years ago because of various practices”
“All we are talking about here in this dispensation is compliance, when people find it difficult to comply we have no other option because the license belongs to the customs and agents are just holding it on trust”
Some of the agents however alleged that the new system that is being introduced by the Nigerian Customs service is a deliberate attempt to phase out custom clearing agents. According to them, one of such is the newly introduced e-payment of duties.
The agents also complained about the introduction of Taxpayers Identification Number (TIN) saying that it is a deliberate attempt to reduce importance of the Customs Agents, according to one of them, with the TIN and the e-payment, “Importers may no longer need the services of a clearing agent for him to clear his container” they feared