By Kenneth Jukpor
Following the influx of arms into the country from Turkey which has seen 2671 pump-action rifles intercepted in 2017 alone, the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd) has accused shipping lines of aiding concealments.
Ali made this statement yesterday in Lagos, during a stakeholders meeting organized by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) with shipping lines, freight forwarders, Customs Area Controllers (CAC) and officers of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in attendance.
The Customs boss revealed that the guns were legally registered for export in Turkey as pump-action rifles for hunting but the manifests were changed in Morocco to become steel doors to enable the container gain entry into Nigeria.
“Why do shipping lines allow the change of manifests on the high seas? This doesn’t happen in other countries and we wouldn’t tolerate such in Nigeria henceforth”, Ali queried.
The Customs Comptroller General also lamented that shipping lines have introduced a new malicious documentation procedure with manifests carrying the tag, “said to contain”
According to Ali, this new manifest bearing “said to contain” was a deviation from the norm and Customs wouldn’t accept such reports because it wasn’t the practice anywhere in the world.
“The issue of ignorance about the content of any container is no longer acceptable. It is the responsibility of the shipping lines to know what is in the container and we would apply the law to the fullest where there is a deviation” Ali added.
Meanwhile, on the possibility of achieving 24 hours cargo clearance time as directed by the Executive Order on port operations, the Customs boss lamented that Nigeria remained far from achieving this because 90% of the port stakeholders are non-compliant.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers Council, Barr. Hassan Bello stated that the meeting was strategic to bring the critical port stakeholders together in order to proffer solutions and make suggestions on how to address the issues at the ports especially the problem of arms import.
“The more we prevent these dangerous items from our shores, the better for our economy and security as a nation. The essence of the meeting is to curb the cases of illegal arms imports and other items detrimental to the nation’s economy and security”, Bello said.
He also commended the Comptroller General for having the thought of engaging critical stakeholders on the issue of arms smuggling.
“Our role at the Council includes bringing stakeholders together to discuss issues pertaining to shipping and transport, in general. I believe that when we come together we easily find solutions. The solutions to the problems in the Nigerian ports do not lye with the Customs alone, or any other stakeholder in isolation. We all have a stake in the ports and it is when we come together that we can proffer solutions”, he added.
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