The House of Representatives Committee on Customs and Excise on Tuesday summoned the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Colonel Hameed Ali (retd.).
The NCS boss is expected to appear before the panel in a fortnight over allegations of extortion levelled against the agency by stakeholders in the shipping and maritime industry.
The panel, following series of complaints from ports operators who are involved in the import, export businesses and clearing/forwarding agents, against the NCS, held an investigative hearing on Tuesday.
In attendance were senior officers of the Nigeria Shippers Council, the NCS, the Nigerian Ports Authority, Webb Fountain, clearing and forwarding agents, among others.
The stakeholders told the panel that the cumbersome processes put in place by the NCS was encouraging all forms of extortions by some officials of the agency.
The operators specifically alleged that the dwindling revenue from the ports were caused by the cumbersome clearing process which usually lasted over two weeks.
They alleged that they usually passed through about 21 tables before their documentation to clear a single container were completed.
They also complained of dysfunctional server and scanners at the ports while the non-disposal of seized containers by NCS was leading to terrible space constraints at both the Tin Can and Apapa terminals.
The aggrieved operators lamented the nonfunctional state of the various dry ports in the country, alleging that the development was causing fall in revenues that should accrue to the Federal Government.
They said the adoption of manual inspection as against the use of modern scanners was a major setback for their operations.
The representative of the NCS CG, Deputy Comptroller General, Tariff & Trade, Talhatu Isa, however, countered the claims of the operators.
Isa assured the panel that she would investigate the stakeholders’ claims and report her findings to the House within two weeks.
The chairman of the committee, Leke Abejide, lamented the non-take off of the e-customs, saying the development was affecting smooth operations at the ports.
He described the issue of alleged multiple extortion at the ports and the various checkpoints manned by police and military officers outside the ports as grossly unacceptable.
Abejide asked the DCG if it was possible for the NCS to reduce the tables where documentations are processed from 21 to about four but she replied that the decision was beyond her.
The Chairman said, “The committee hereby invites the CG of Customs to appear before us in the in the next two weeks to explain the cumbersome process in ports which is allegedly leading to extortion.”
He said the essence of the investigative hearing was to see how to make the ports competitive.