Founder of National Association of Government Approved Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr Boniface Aniebonam, has warned port users, customs agents and freight forwarders not to misinterpret the recent directive of the Comptroller General of Customs, Hamid Ali, that illegal customs check points be removed as equating to a license to abuse import/export guidelines.
The directive was in tandem with the Executive Order on the ease of doing business in Nigerian ports issued by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo which demanded twenty four hours operation and orderliness in port business, among others. Accordingly, the CGC therefore ordered the removal of all inland checkpoints to ease movement of cargo around the country.
Dr Aniebonam cautioned that the CGC directives did not stop customs officers from their statutory duty of patrolling to curb smuggling and other infractions.
“May we at this point educate and inform freight forwarders that this directive of the CGC has not removed the powers of the Customs to patrol freely within the territorial boundaries of Nigeria. What has just happened is to state clearly from our perspective that the Presidential Order has not altered the power to stop-and-search persons, vehicles and ships etc where there is reasonable suspicion that goods and other materials in contravention of Customs laws are kept or sighted.
“We therefore wish to advise practitioners not to be carried away by this order to do any wrong thing against the Customs laws – because the Presidential Orders to dismantle all alleged illegal checkpoints may not save anybody found in contravention of Customs laws. It is also important to note that the Presidential Orders do not negate the extant laws of the Nigeria Customs and or any other laws that has to do with Nigeria international trade and logistics.
The truth of the matter is that to the extent that importers and freight agents can become compliant to import and export regulations of the Government shall be the road map to remove the patrol teams from the roads. It should be clear that anything to the contrary is baseless because of the extant laws of the Customs that give them the powers to patrol freely within the territorial boundaries of Nigeria in the
discharge of their statutory duty,” observed Aniebonam.
The popular freight forwarder enjoined both customs officers and customs agents to be transparent and above board especially in cargo examination to avoid undue stoppages and harassment of both cargo and the forwarder either in transit or at destination.
“On the part of the Customs, the need to ensure proper Customs examination cannot be overemphasized. The CGC/Comptrollers of the various operational areas of the Customs formations should be seen to ensure discipline in the event of abuse by its officers with regard to Customs laws and regulations. The inherent abuse of the laws and procedures by Customs examiners and freight forwarders are the issues remotely causing the relevance of the patrol teams of the Customs intervention units of the Federal Operations and CGC Compliance team,” he noted.