By Innocent Orok
Full Customs and clearing activities has resumed at the Onne port in the Port Harcourt area of Rivers state. This is as a result of the intervention of the leadership of the various freight forwarding practitioners, led by the National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike
According to a press statement issued after the meeting between the Customs and the various associations signed by the ANLCA Chapter Chairman of Onne port, Michael Ebeatu, the resolution of the one week strike embarked upon by freight forwarders was reached after two days of deliberations .
The statement said “the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), among other associations and stakeholders in order to resolve the snacking issues that led to the Clearing Agents and Freight Forwarders operating at Onne Seaport port embarking on indefinite strike had a meeting with the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on the 7th and 8th May 2021.
” The two days meeting had in attendance, on the Customs side, ACG in -charge of Zone C, Customs Area Controllers of Port Harcourt Area 1 and Area II (Onne), other senior Customs Officers from the various Customs Units in both Commands and formations including, CIU, Strike Force and Border Drill.
“On the stakeholders side, the ANLCA team was led by the National President , Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike, Patron, Chief Henry Njoku, National Assistant Secretary, Chief Dennis Ugwu and the Chapter Executives of both Port Harcourt Area 1 and II of ANLCA. Others were, the leadership of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (ARFFN) and National Council of Managing Directors of Customs Licensed Agents (NCMDCLA).”
Issues presented by the freightorwarders were incessant alerts, Highhandedness and high level of extortion by some Units and Officers of the NCS. Indiscriminate and arbitrary DN by some Units of the Customs. Multiple process tables at FOT Gate resulting to delays, high level of extortion and inhuman treatment and harassment of Clearing and forwarding Agents by some Units and Officers of the Customs among others.
While the demands presented by the stakeholders to be addressed by the Customs were: That the CIU Team Leader should be redeployed. That the indiscriminate and multiple alerts from Customs Headquarter, multiple processing tables at FOT Gate should be reviewed, reduced and streamlined in order to make job processing seamless and to encourage trade facilitation.
All consignment cleared at Onne Port be only treated by FOU Akpajo check point and then escalated to other FOU check points in the Zone as having been treated. Harassments and Inhuman treatment of our members by some Units and Officers of the Customs be stopped immediately and that no individual or association should be victimized, unduly sanctioned or maltreated by any Unit of Customs as a result of the industrial action.
Others are, that a waiting room and convenience be provided for our members at CPC. That re-examination at Gate should be stopped and all examination be concluded at examination bay. That PCA should be streamlined in a manner that once a Unit of PCA handles any job no other is permitted to call for such job again and that a Technical, Implementation and compliance committee be set up to ensure the following:
(A) The implementation of all agreement reached and (B) Review the processes of operation with the aim of removing all forms of bottlenecks and set up a workable template that would guarantee trade facilitation and promote the ease of doing business.
In resolving the issues after long negotiation that lasted two days, the following resolutions and agreements were reached (1) That the team Leader of should reverse with immediate effect to the already existing working arrangement and relationship before his coming to Onne.(2) The CAC promised to work in synergy with the Customs Headquarters and his officers to reduce and streamline alerts. (3)The Comptroller called for attitudinal change in terms of Agents declarations, being the cause of most of these alerts.
(4) SENT TO WACT: have been abolished, only suspected or consignments with query would be blocked at WACT. (5) FOU matters to be treated with FOU Comptroller.
(6)The harassment and inhuman treatment of our members by some Officers and their team would not happen again. But members are encouraged to register with their various Associations for proper identification.
Whereby there is any form of harassment of any member again, such should be immediately reported to CAC, the Chairmen or any Senior Officer for immediate intervention.
(7) Assurance was given by the Area Controller and his Officers, that no Association or individual would be victimized, unduly sanctioned or maltreated by any Unit of Customs because of the industrial action.
Others are (8) Re-examination of containers at gate is now based on tip -off and suspicion on the grounds that the said container was not examined at the examination bay.
(9) The PCA formation is not within the control of the Area Controller and may not be able to determine the way of their operation. (10) SCROLLING: Hence forth, scrolling, tallying and exiting of containers at the gate are free, whatever anybody gives shall be by personal appreciation and relationship. (11) A technical committee should be formed by the associations to interface with Customs on specific issues. This committee is to collate all dutiable items, list them out and make proposal to Customs on acceptable duty thresholds and workable templates to ensure trade facilitation and revenue generation in order to eliminate every form of extortions, multiple alerts and indiscriminate DNs. (12) The O/C Gate promised to address the issue of multiple processing tables and extortion at the gate by his officers and nip it in the bud.
Meanwhile, contrarily to some social media reports which credits the resolution of the crises to the former Board Chairman of ANLCA, Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha , the Chairman of the Onne port chapter of ANLCA says the report is not correct .According to him, ” the attention of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agent (ANLCA), Onne Seaport Chapter has been drawn to some social media publications crediting the resolution of the Onne Seaport Chapter crisis to one of the stakeholder and former member of the ANLCA BOT, Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha.
“Ordinarily, we wouldn’t like to join issues with the media , but to put the facts and records straight, hence our necessary reaction. “We want to correct the misplacement of credit and the distortion of facts therein.
” It has become imperative to put it clearly that the Chapter leaders of all the players, comprising of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF),and the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders (AREFF), were led to the meeting by the National President of ANLCA, Hon. Tony Iju Nwabunike; the National Patron, Chief Henry Njoku; and the National Assistant Secretary, Chief Dennis Okwu. Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha was exclusively invited to the meeting as a stakeholder by the ACG. Please, this is for proper guidance. As we remain hopeful of the implementation of the consensus reached and resumption of Operations, we appreciate the understanding and restraints which we have all shown so far in this challenge”, he said.