Business Hilights
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Customs’ 100% examination, N9.1mn daily demurrage amount to official fraud–Importers

Nigerian importers and clearing agents have vowed to challenge the new policy of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) seeking 100 per cent examination of containers and N9.1mn daily demurrage in case a container stays longer grace period of four days.

Though the new directive is stemming from the recent interception of a container containing 661 pump-action rifles imported into the country through the Lagos Port, stakeholders argue that the policy is a clear fraud on the side of the Customs because it cannot even complete the examination of up to five containers from about 400 positioned daily for the exercise.

An importer who pleaded anonymity argued further that “tell me if it not fraudulent for Customs knowing full well that it will not check up to five containers in a day will line up 400 only to surcharge N9.1mn for over 395 containers it failed to examine on a daily basis”.

“If Customs, due to their inefficiency failed to examine my container on arrival and begin to charge me demurrage, it is fraud and many of us won’t pay it. Hameed Ali said he came to Customs to sanitise the system, but he has not found it worthy to repair or replace crashed scanners at the ports for more than one year now. Is that not a background for fraud?”

Another clearing agent, Joshua Ogaga said “For Customs not to have repaired or replaced the scanners which can effect up to 30 examinations in a day, it means the Service is determined to rob and bleed importers using demurrage tactics”.

“If you cannot complete the physical examination of set containers in a day, why should an importer or clearing agent pay for your inefficiency. That is fraud and I must say, ‘Not in my Country’.

“Everybody here and even the Customs officers are aware that they cannot complete the physical examinations of 400 containers in a day so why should we pay for their programmed delays. Isn’t it fraud?

Business Hilights gathered that whereas the directive to commence physical examination has been commended, it was clear that Customs can only examine four or five out of every 400 containers positioned by terminal operators on a daily basis.

Besides, about 250 TEUs are positioned on a daily basis at Tin-Can port, with the possibility of Customs examination officers examining about 20 across all terminals daily.

A top management staff at the largest container terminal in Apapa Port said the terminal positions 400 TEUs daily and with Customs directive of 100 per cent examination of containers, it can barely physically examine five containers in a day.

The staff however said even though physical examination meant more money for them because importers and Shippers will pay more; it is an act of organized fraud against importers perpetrated by the Customs.

The official said “100 percent physical examination will mean demurrage for us and that will translate into money for us daily. 100 per cent examination means more money to us but the truth is that it is at the expense of the economy. We will get more money but the economy will suffer and inflation will rise above its present position”.

Efforts to get the views of a top official of the Customs failed at press time.