By Kenneth Jukpor
Aggrieved freight forwarders shut down Clarion Bonded Terminal at Alakija, Lagos over missing 19 containers believed to be fraudulently cleared and another 14 vehicles seized by the terminal management since 2021.
The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) 100% Compliance Team organized the protest which lasted from 8am until 4pm as business activities were crippled and the two access points to the bonded terminal closed.
According to the protesters, the bonded terminal has become a safe haven for illicit logistics transactions with contrabands, flying containers and overzealous terminal operations famous at the facility.
Some of the placards carried by protesters today read; ‘Where are the nineteen containers of arms and ammunition released at your terminal? Who released the nineteen containers without duties paid? Clarion releases containers without TDOs! Where are the nineteen containers of First Degree?’
Addressing newsmen, the Managing Director of Ajaji Continental Limited, a licensed Customs company used to process the 19 missing containers, Mr. Godswill Ojogwu stated that Clarion terminal operators demanded over N8million demand notice (DN) on the missing containers.
His words: “I’m a retired Assistant Controller of Customs and on my retirement, I started a freight forwarding company, Ajaji Continental Limited. I’m also a member of NAGAFF. Clarion used my license fraudulently in 2018. When I discovered, I noticed that the bonded terminal used my license to steal 19 containers from Tin Can Island Port. These containers were moved as bonded transfer goods. They were supposed to move from Tin Can to Clarion but documents show that these containers were not released. Subsequently, my license was blocked and I approached Customs who directed my to Clarion who released the containers.”
“When I approached Clarion to show me who used my agency, they almost mobbed me when they seized about fourteen vehicles duly released by Customs. I approached Clarion with documents showing proper clearance from Customs and the shipping company, urging them to release the vehicles while we continue the investigation on the mystery 19 containers. Clarion bluntly refused as they demanded that I pay over N8million Demand Notice on the missing containers.”
“They are linking the 14 vehicles seized to the 19 containers they used my license to clear via a company known as First Degree Multinational Limited. MSC was the shipping company used for that transaction. There is no way goods would leave the port without due process but this was done in a shady manner. I wrote to the Area Controller of Tin Can Customs but my documents allegedly got missing on three ocassions at Customs. All efforts to find out how this problem emanated have been futile.”
Also speaking, the National Coordinator of NAGAFF 100% Compliance Team, Alhaji Ibrahim Tanko stressed that Ojogwu’s licensed was hacked when an First Degree Multinational Limited used his license to mysteriously clear 19 containers.
Tanko noted that Customs have come to Ojogwu’s rescue by releasing his license, but expressed shock that Clarion refused to unveil who took delivery of the 19 containers.
His words: “This problem has been on for over a year and we are here to protest because all efforts to get intervention from Customs, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) and Nigerian Police had been futile. We have written petitions to Customs Area Controller at Tin Can, Commissioner of Police for Ports, we also copied the headquarters.”
“Nothing has been done since we dispatched letters and 14 vehicles cleared by the freight forwarder has been seized by the bonded terminal over this transaction of 19 missing containers. During a meeting with the Clarion General Manager on this incident, he confirmed that the terminal never provided a TDO for the 19 missing containers. How should the freight forwarding company be asked to pay DN for cargo it didn’t process or receive?”
Efforts by newsmen to get a reaction from the Clarion Bonded Terminal operators were futile as the managerial officers refused to speak to journalists.