Tanko Ibrahim Seeks Amnesty on Containers Caught in Discrepancies

**Wants Reprieve For Members

By Ambrose Okehi

Despite the series deliberate misinformation or  discrepancies and problems associated with faulty documentations on information relating to cargoes at the seaports and the particulars of their owners, which has resulted to the refusal of clearance of such consignments by the NCS after discovery of such abnormalities, a plea has been made to the agency to tamper justice with mercy by seeing how they can clear those affected containers to ease out the congestion at the ports.

It could be recalled that  the recent circular issued by the NCS, the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali who recently ordered that all consignments with improper documentation be seized.

The CGC’s directive was contained in the January I4 20I9 circular which was signed by Deputy Comptroller General of Customs (DCG) in charge of Tariff and Trade(T&T), Comptroller Isa Talatu in which he directed to all the Customs Area Controller (CACs) were directed to profile all Single Goods Declaration (SGDs), Form ‘M’, Bill of Ladding and Manifest that contain the names and details of the importers, Pre-Arrival Assessment Reports and suspend the release of such container with discrepancies until further notice.

But through a statement recently released and signed by its National Vice President Western Zone of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Alhaji Tanko Ibrahim who has called on the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to tamper justice with mercy over 200 containers caught in discrepancy  saga.

Accoding to Alhaji Ibrahim, for the sake of clarity, these are containers which have discrepancies on consignees’ names on clearing documents such as  Single  Goods Declaration(SGD),  Pre-Arrival Assessment Report(PAAR) and Bill of Lading.

He however, commended the government agency (NCS) for passing such directive to ensure that operators comply with extant laws.

”NAGAFF, as a responsible trade group, wishes to align with the decision of the Customs hierarchy.

”We appreciate the position and concerns of the Customs on the need to ensure that all extant laws and guidelines on proper goods clearance procedures are followed.

Alhaji Tanko Ibrahim further added that,  ”as much laudable as the decision of the Customs to ensure that all the stakeholders play by the rule, we want to call the attention of the Customs hierarchy to the unintentional consequences of the abruptness of the suspension order.

”Over 2000 containers which unfortunately fall under this category are currently trapped at Apapa port.

”Many more, the numbers of which we cannot immediately determine, are similarly held at other ports and border posts across the country.”

Giving reason the agency must have a rethink over their decision, the NAGAFF chieftain maintained that with such number of containers still allowed to remain inside the ports instead of clearing them off, they will add to the already congested port.

”In the same veins, these trapped containers are capable of causing congestion which may slow down the process of goods clearance at the port.

”This is not to talk of the mounting demurrages the trapped containers will attract from both the shipping companies and terminal operators,” Ibrahim added.

He also solicited for a reprieve on behalf of the members of the group and other whose containers may have trapped in the discrepancy saga and said:

”It is in the light of this that the association is seeking a reprieve on behalf of our members who are involved in this unwholesome practice.

”We appeal to the Customs authority to grant an amnesty for the trapped containers to allow their owners clear them.

”Our position was informed by the fact that these containers were already in the process of clearance before this order suddenly came.

”It is our wish that the Customs grants a window with time lag for these containers to exit the port.

NAGAFF therefore hinted that after these grace the service can then apply full sanctions on erring importers and agents in similar cases.

”We encourage that the  full weight of the law be brought on importers and agents who thereafter fall foul of this directive after this relief is granted.”

Giving reason why the CGC and his men and officers should tamper justice with mercy, Alhaji Tanko however informed that:
”We believe if enough notice was given before that proclamation was made, it could have afforded many of these containers to escape the hammer.

”As it stands now, the directive has paralysed goods clearance process as majority of consignments are caught in the web.

For NAGAFF, he said: 
”Our association has however embarked on enlightenment campaign to educate our members on the need to engage in proper goods clearance procedures .

”NAGAFF , as a trade group committed to professionalism and fair trade practices, will not encourage and condone indiscipline and act of impunity among its members.”

On how the relationship between the parties (NAGAFF and Customs) would be sustained, Alhaji Tanko said:

”We are ready to continue to partner with Customs Service in its efforts to sanitise goods clearance procedures at the ports.”

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