Releasing officers missing At Tin Can, PTML
By Kenneth Jukpor
Hundreds of customs agents and their importers have found themselves in anguish as they are set to suffer colossal fiscal losses following the ongoing promotional examinations for Assistant Controllers and Deputy Controllers in the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) which has seen cargo evacuation hampered across Lagos ports.
At the Ports and Terminal Multi-Purpose Services Limited (PTML) yesterday, Customs managed to prevent a stampede as hundreds of agents voiced their displeasure with no officer to attend to their demands earlier in the day.
MMS Plus also gathered that only the Mile 2 extension of PTML Customs had been able to release cars as at 3:30pm yesterday, while the unfortunate trend was also evident at Tin Can and some terminals in Apapa.
While the Area Controllers at these Commands proactively appointed representatives to prevent a lacuna in administration, such effort have provided little respite as most releasing officers have their biometrics attached to the Nigerian Integrated Customs Information System II (NICIS II) platform.
Agents were seen murmuring and lamenting at PTML and Tin Can Customs yesterday as they made efforts to explain the situation to their importers.
Speaking with our correspondent at PTML yesterday, an agent, Mr. Segun Akanbi said; “Nothing has happened here today. No vehicle has bee been released. That is the situation on ground at PTML but the directive is from the Federal Government as the senior officers are in Abuja for their promotion examinations. There are some officers appointed for this purpose of releasing, but they are doing nothing. Most of us want our vehicles out today but that’s not possible because most of the officers representing them don’t have such authority to release vehicles”
Another agent also at PTML, Mr. Emeka Onuoha said; “It is not just PTML. The problem is also happening at Tin Can and Apapa Customs. These officers are in the rank of Assistant Controllers and Deputy Controllers. Their thumb print is needed under this Nigerian Integrated Customs Information System II (NICIS II) system. If it was the former one, some one can just sign but it’s different now. Not all ACs and DCs are due for this examination that is why some at Tin Can and Apapa are available but all of them at PTML traveled for the exams.”
Speaking further, he said, “I have a vehicle at PTML and a container at Mid Maritime Terminal at Tin Can Island. I have been told that this problem affected both of them. I’m going home because I have no other business at the ports. I have called my agent to explain but the unfortunate thing is that the officers wouldn’t be back before Wednesday. So, the next work day for them may be Thursday. I’m afraid things may remain like this until next week Monday”
Meanwhile, another agent who simply revealed her name as Madam Shola, lamented that the delay would cost her extra money as demurrage which she didn’t envisage as she did everything within her power to prevent the additional cost.
Shola, who was sitted in front of the office of the Officer in-charge (OC) containers at PTML stressed that she had been at the Command since morning with no cue as at 3:30pm on how to avoid the demurrage.
“I have been here since morning. My plan was to get the vehicle out today because I never wanted demurrage. No vehicle has been released at PTML as a result of this promotional exams. Only the Mile 2 station has an officer capable of releasing.”
“It is Christmas season and more cargoes will arrive throughout this week. That means that the work will pile up for the officers when they come back and this isn’t good because most people would end up not getting their goods on time,” she explained.
However, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) at PTML Customs, Mr. Mohammed Yakubu told MMS Plus that there was no crisis.
“We have few releasing officers but it is the right of all officers to sit for promotional exams. The Area Controller realized this and deployed capable hands to stand in. The deployed officers may not be as fast as the regular officers but the job is going.”
“There has been no stampede. If there was anything of such the PR department would be the first to know,” he added.
The PRO, Tin Can Customs Command, Mr. Uche Ejisieme also assured that proper arangement has been made by the Area Controller for “regularisation of the gaps created as a result of the ongoing promotional exams by deploying other releasing officers to fill in the gaps.
“Please note that there is no vacuum and the examinations will not take time” the Tin Can Customs spokesman assured.
Meanwhile, there are allegations that the aggrieved agents have been unwilling to maximize the intervention made available by the Area Controllers for fear of the unknown.
Another agent, Chief Pauly Shedrack stressed this while he affirmed that the ongoing Customs promotion examination had affected the port activities.
“There has been an arrangement by Customs to address this problem. However, most agents have gotten used to certain officers in such positions and they harness the relationship to their benefit. Some agents would be willing to wait because they don’t want to get caught in any unpleasant situation with the officers standing in. I think that is the reason of the complain.” he said.
The Chairman, PTML chapter, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Mr. George Okafor also affirmed that the absence of senior officers caused some chaos at PTML yesterday morning.
However, he declined making comments as he was unavailable during the event, assuring that he would do an investigation on the matter.