* Preferential treatment isn’t corruption – Taskforce
By Kenneth Jukpor
Despite blatant denial of any form of corrupt practices by the Presidential Taskforce saddled with the onus of freeing Lagos port access roads, Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) has accused the team of bribery in the discharge of their duties.
The Customs Area Controller (CAC) of Apapa Customs, Comptroller Mohammed Abba-Kura made this accusation when he hosted an Ad-hoc House of Representatives Committee on Viability of Eastern Ports at the Apapa Customs Command, last week.
Narrating a recent experience the Customs boss said, “About a month ago, an importer came to me to complain. We had released his containers about a week before he came but trucks couldn’t enter the port to pick the containers. So, he came to me and we went to meet the Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce and he started challenging him there”
“The Taskforce Chairman started showing him pictures of Mile 2 by 6am and 6pm; the importer replied that he didn’t care. He said he only wanted his trucks to go in. After about ten minutes, the Commissioner of Police who is also a member of the Taskforce came back with a report that one of the trucks had entered the ports. So, what would have happened to those who don’t know anybody? Some many taskforce officers have been placed on that road and we have seen what they were doing. They would collect monies from the truckers and allow them jump those on the queue and access the ports” Abba-Kura added.
The Apapa Customs boss also stressed that until the port access roads were completely fixed and the multiple tank farms in the Apapa environs were relocated, the traffic congestion in the area would be eliminated.
Meanwhile, in his reaction, the Vice-Chairman of the task force, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, dispelled claims that his task force has been involved in any case of corruption, even as he called on stakeholders to comply with the new directives.
Opeifa said, “Are you aware that this Presidential Taskforce is fighting Customs? I’m not shocked that Customs are the making these allegations. We have fought them continuously so that they leave the roads. They weren’t at Area B area in Apapa on the day the House of Representatives ad-hoc Committee visited”
Opeifa further stated that 50% of port inefficiency is as a result of Customs inefficiencies and excesses at ports and on the port access roads.
“Did the Customs boss do any investigation on that report he received? Wasn’t the presidential task team one of the first people to shout about corruption in the system? Extortion no longer happens in Apapa and anyone who tells you that there is still extortion is a liar. The people complaining are agents. They are middlemen between the truck-owners and importers. We have removed the role of these agents responsible for moving the trucks haphazardly” he said.
He also argued that the preferential treatment highlighted in the case narrated by the Apapa Customs boss does not mean the taskforce was corrupt.
However, he maintained that all forms of preferential treatment by the taskforce has been stopped, adding that all operators must comply with the due process by first obtaining NPA call-up before accessing the ports at the pace of the system.