By Gboyega Oni
Aggrieved Customs licensed agents operating at AP Moller Terminals, Apapa, Lagos on Saturday 18 November, 2017 accused the management of APMT of colluding with officials of the Apapa Customs Command to shortchange them by refusing to drop their containers for examination as and at when due.
Some of the agents who spoke to PortNewsNigeria in the port said they came for their cargo examination by customs only to discover that their containers were not dropped by APMT for examination despite carrying out the booking.
They said that APMT surreptitiously changed the container positioning procedure by removing date/day of examination and stoppage of sending information via SMS, a ploy to fleece their principals, importers. They added that APMT has equally stopped posting the list of daily schedule of containers for examination on its notice board in the terminal.
With these features removed, they said APMT has denied them the opportunity to know when to come and if their containers have been positioned for examination. They noted that if you go to the port for examination two days after booking, which was the normal practice, APMT would tell you that your container was dropped yesterday but you did not come and had been returned to the stacking area and charges you N10,000.00 for container repositioning.
According to the agents, “the normal practice is that containers are to be dropped for the customs examination at least 24 hours after booking with a proper notification via SMS from APMT communicating the date of examination to agents. But the practice has suddenly changed now as APMT has removed all the informative sections on the booking form thus denying agents from knowing when examination will be done. Without your notification, the company would proceed to drop your container for examination. And If you now come to perform the examination, you will be shocked that your containers was not positioned as APMT would tell you that your container was dropped on so and so day and since you did not come, it was returned to the stacking area. They would now ask you to pay N10,000.00 for repositioning.”
They said that if you do not pay the N10,000.00 your container would not be repositioned for customs examination and the resultant delay would attact demurrage. They noted that on that Saturday no fewer than over 100 containers already booked for examination were not dropped by APMT for customs to examine.
On the complicity of Apapa Customs Command in the matter, agents said that the customs examination officers lazily conduct examination by picking the number of containers they wish to inspect even when over 100 containers are scheduled by APMT for examination per day, with the unlucky ones returned to the stacking area and owners to pay N10,000.00 for repositioning again and demurrage starts counting immediately.
They said the complicity of the customs starts from the moment you take the container position release note from APMT to the customs to inform them that your cargo is due for inspection but surprisingly customs would refuse to communicate APMT to drop your containers.
The agents said the act negates the spirit behind the Executive Order on Ease of Doing of Business of the Federal Government, saying that customs should not be working with APMT to cheat Nigerian importers.
They called on the Customs Area Controller of the Command, Comptroller Musa Jibril to correct the anomaly by calling his officers to order and warn APMT to comply with the proper cargo releasing processing.