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More than one year and seven months of his appointment as the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, has made a U-Turn and visited Lagos clearing agents’ associations to seek partnership and speed his gospel on anti corruption.
He visited the leaderships of both the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) and the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) all in Lagos on Monday.
Addressing members of NAGAFF, at their Village in Apapa, Ali advised clearing agents to collaborate with the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to fight corruption and reduce the delays associated with cargo clearance at the ports to facilitate trade.
He said with a fruitful synergy with the Customs, agents will assist in putting an end to all the challenges militating against their operations at the ports.
But to drive home his new plan in driving ease of doing business at the ports as it concerns the Customs, Ali assured the clearing agents that the service would soon organise stakeholders’ meeting that would be attended by selected leaders of the associations to proffer solutions to problems affecting seamless cargo clearance at the ports.
He further appealed to the associations to “support President Muhammadu Buhari in his agenda to stop corruption and I hope our meeting would bring positive results to our operations”.
“I am also appealing to both the NCS officers and the clearing agents to always search their consciences and ensure they do the right things at all times.
“When you requested that wanted to see us, we felt if we say yes, you should come to Abuja, I believe that we might end up with maximum of ten of you realizing of course today, the economy is hard, getting to Abuja is no longer one hour, it is now about three to five hours because you have to go to Kaduna and then drive to Abuja. So you have one hour to Kaduna and then, two hours to Abuja and then back. We then felt we are in a better position to come so that we meet with everybody that is involved. Two, we will also have the chance to interact with quite a number of you and three, it will give me the opportunity to see quite some faces that I have never seen long time ago”.
The customs boss further observed that his visit to the NAGAFF headquarters was to further underscore the relationship that existed between the association and the service saying that, “there cannot be customs without clearing agents just like there cannot be clearing agents without customs”.
He said if we are the one that grant license for you to operate, then there is no gainsaying you are part and parcel of us. We don’t see these organizations as separate organizations but we these organizations as sister organizations that were established to be able to ensure the ease of doing business with the maritime, ports and borders”.
Reacting to burning issues raised during question time including multiple check point, Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) and delays in Customs documentation, Ali said apart from delaying cargo movement, the check points had assisted the service to intercept 661 riffles and other seizures due to lack of proper examination at the ports.
On PAAR, he said if the scheme is well documented, there will be no delay due to rejection.
He called on all associations to drive the campaign of ending false import cargo declarations, saying it remains the worst financial crime and corrupt practice in the industry.
Earlier in his welcome remarks, the founder of NAGAFF, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam thanked him for coming even though well belated.