Following the recent killing of a freight forwarder by an officer of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the Congregation of Registered Freight Forwarding Practitioners of Nigeria (CREFFPON) has demanded an immediate dismissal of the Customs officer and subsequent prosecution.
The freight forwarder in the course of taking delivery of a used Toyota car duly cleared at PTML terminal at the auto-wharf/Mile 2, FOU check point, was allegedly shot by the Customs officer over a flimsy excuse of attempting to drive off without paying the “Officer on duty” settlement.
CREFFPON, after carrying out findings and review of the incident, made this dismissal call in a press release signed by Comrade Edwin Chukwudire Obi at the weekend.
The group also admonished the Customs management should carry out a proper training of its officers to enable them better understand the peculiarity of the service, especially on anti-smuggling operations.
According to CREFFPON, there is a distinction between a freight forwarder carrying out his daily professional practice within the Customs ports corridor and a diehard smuggler who plies the unapproved routes to carry out illegal operations.
“The shooting of innocent and unarmed freight forwarders who are not smugglers nor found operating within or along the smuggling/unapproved routes for a mere flimsy excuse of not settling Custom Officers on duty is becoming rampant and condemnable.”
“Recall that sometime in 2013, the FOU officer shot and brutally killed the Vice Chairman of NAGAFF Idioroko Chapter, Chief Anayo Chinedu, just for stopping his car to mediate between the FOU officers and a bus driver who had arguments with the officers at their checkpoints”
“It is on record that the Nigeria Customs framed him as a suspected smuggler to cover up their mess, but the report of the incident is documented with the international human rights organizations, while the NAGAFF has since then after series of protest, buried its own,” CREFFPON said.
Meanwhile, the group condemned the heightened extortions and harassment of the FOU officers in recent years, noting that in the past the FOU and all Customs Area Commands have enjoyed reasonable peace and tranquility, and trade facilitation was achieved smoothly.
CREFFPON also criticized the incessant interception of cleared cargo along the port access roads, arguing that it can actually be coordinated in a manner in line with trade compliance by deploying the S.M.A.R.T processes devoid of internal parochialism and administrative issues between the area commands and external Customs units.
“We also make bold to reemphasize that the setting up of Customs task forces in any disguise or form, is a deliberate act of usurping the official duties of the line officers, whereas the Customs management lacks the administrative willpower to effectively supervise the progress its officers and penalize ailing officers for unethical and unwholesome practices in the cargo documentation, handling and processing operations.”
“It is important for the enforcement officers of the Service to treat the freight forwarders, not just as partners in the revenue generation quest of the federal government, but with dignity and respect for human life. Acts capable of promoting undue provocation that may result into industry unrest must be avoided at all times.”
“The application of rules of engagement and professionalism in the practice is the key approach to resolving all trade related disputes and not unbridled militancy. As such, we cannot overemphasize on the need to strengthen the symbiotic relationship that hitherto had existed between the men and officers of the service and the freight forwarders. It is never possible to wish away the professional truth that, a Custom officer and a Custom Licensed agent are two sides of a coin,” the group added.