Freight forwarders under the aegis of that the Congregation of Registered Freight Forwarding Practitioners of Nigeria (CREFFPON) have called on the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service Col. Hammed Ali to fish the customs officer who allegedly shot a freight forwarder in the leg last week for dismissal and prosecution in the law court.
CREFFPON condemned the act and called on the Service to carry out a proper training of its officers to understand and grasp the workings of the service, especially on the pros and cons of the anti-smuggling operations.
CREFFPON demanded justice in a statement made available to PortNews over the weekend by Comrade Edwin Chukwudire Obi, CREFFPON Administrator.
Having monitored the reported sad incident of a FOU officer of the Nigeria Customs Service who shot a freight forwarder (in the course of taking delivery of a used Toyota car duly cleared at PTML terminal) at the auto-wharf/Mile 2, FOU checkpoint, on a flimsy excuse of attempting to drive off without paying the “Officer on duty” settlement. It’s on this premise that the Congregation of Registered Freight Forwarding Practitioners of Nigeria (CREFFPON) wish to state as follows:
“That after careful findings and review of the incident, we hereby demand that the Customs officer who carried out the shooting be fished out for subsequent dismissal from the Customs Service and be prosecuted for attempted murder to start with.
“We also insist that the Customs management should carry out a proper training of its officers to understand and grasp the workings of the service, especially on the pros and cons of the anti-smuggling operations.
“May we posit here that, there is a distinction between a freight forwarder carrying out its daily professional practices within the Customs ports corridor (less than 20 kilometers from the port access road), and a diehard smuggler who ply the unapproved routes to carry out its illegal enterprises.
“The shooting of innocent and unarmed freight forwarders who are not smugglers or found operating within or along the smuggling/unapproved routes for a mere flimsy excuse of not settling Custom Officers on duty is becoming rampant and condemnable.
“Recall that sometimes in 2013, the FOU officer shot and brutally killed the Vice Chairman of NAGAFF Idioroko chapter, Chief Anayo Chinedu, just for stopping his car to mediate between the FOU officers and a bus driver who had arguments with the officers at their checkpoint.
“It is on record that the Nigeria Customs framed him as a suspected smuggler to cover up their mess, but the report of the incident is documented with the international human rights Organizations, while the NAGAFF has since then after series of protest, buried its own.
“We equally note with apprehension, the heightened extortions and harassment tendencies of the FOU officers in recent years.
“Before now, the FOU and all Customs Area Commands have enjoyed reasonable peace and tranquility, and trade facilitation was achieved smoothly. But that is not the same setting presently, as things have gone from worse to worst and trade facilitation is serially obstructed by the FOU unit of Nigeria Customs.
“We also observed that the incessant interception of cleared cargo along the port access road can actually be coordinated in a manner that trade compliance will be achieved by deploying the S.M.A.R.T application devoid of internal parochialism and administrative in cohesiveness between the area commands and external Customs unit.
“We also make bold to reemphasize that the setting up of Customs task forces in any disguise or form, is a deliberate act of usurping the official duties of the line officers, whereas the Customs management lacks the administrative willpower to effectively supervise the progress its officers and penalize ailing officers for unethical and unwholesome practices in the cargo documentation, handling and processing operations.
“Finally, it is important for the enforcement officers of the Service to treat the freight forwarders, not just as partners in the revenue generation quest of the federal government, but with dignity and respect for human life. Acts capable of promoting undue provocation that may result in industry unrest must be avoided at all times. The application of rules of engagement and professionalism in the practice is the key approach to resolving all trade-related disputes and not unbridled militancy.
“As such, we cannot overemphasize the need to strengthen the symbiotic relationship that hitherto had existed between the men and officers of the service and the freight forwarders. It is never possible to wish away the professional truth that, “a Custom officer and a Custom Licensed agent are two sides of a coin”