New Telegraph

Infractions: Importers lose 6,000 containerised cargoes to FG

Importers whose containers have been abandoned or detained by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) for over five years will forfeit their cargoes as overtime consignments to Federal Government between now and December 2022.

Some of the overtime cargoes were detained for infractions such as under declaration, false declaration, import duty infringements, wrong classification of cargoes, transfer of value, concealment, discrepancies in importers’ names and other erroneous information provided on clearance documents.

After the take-over, such cargoes would be gazetted and a  court order would be obtained for them to be auctioned. It was learnt that the service had raised a team of officers from Abuja led by Controller in charge of Auction and Overtime Unit, Comptroller Abubakar Sanusi, to Lagos ports with a mandate to examine all overtime cargoes within two weeks and report to headquarters for immediate action.

According to to the service, the consignments will also pass through NSC’s 100 per cent examination. In line with the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA), after 28 days of grace period, if a cargo is not cleared from the port, it becomes an overtime cargo and is taken over by government through the Nigeria Customs Service.

The service also threatened that it would not hesitate to sanction any terminal operator, who puts up resistance against evacuation of these overtime cargoes. However, it was gathered that the last time a major evacuation was done at the Lagos port was in 2014. The 6,000 overtime containers are currently occupying about 25

per cent of port space. In a report by the Public Relations Officer of African Professional Freight Forwarding and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON) at Tin-Can Chapter, Rev Clinton Okoro, the decision to evacuate the overtime cargoes by NCS was disclosed at a stakeholders meeting held at Tin Can Island Port on November 20, 2022.

According to him, the meeting was well attended as the Customs Area Controller, Tin can Island Port, Comptroller Kunle Oloyede, asked for the cooperation of all stakeholders to achieve the Federal Government’s mandate.

Okoro added: “The CAC, Overtime Cargo Clearance, Comptroller Sanusi, explained their purpose of coming and pleaded for the support of all stakeholders to embark on100 physical examination on overtime containers and compile their report and submit to Abuja.”

Chairman APPFLON Tin can Chapter, Godfrey Nwosu, who recalled that similar exercise was carried out over for over years ago, noted that till now the overtime

containers examined had not been evacuated from the port. He noted that the main challenge in moving overtime containers were the terminal operators, who are reluctant to move overtime cargoes to government designated warehouses in Ikorodu as they are bent on collecting rent on the containers, not minding the time spent.

Also, the Chairman of Council of Managing Directors of Customs Licensed Agents (CMDCLA), Victor Ozigbo, supported APFFLON chairman, citing provisions of CEMA and concession agreement between the port operators and Federal Government. The Secretary of the Association of Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Barr. Michael Ebeatu, however, stressed the need by customs to sensitise freight forwarders on the exercise.

Nevertheless, Sanusi explained that after examination by the overtime cargo clearance team, a report will be forwarded to the headquarters, saying that the overtime cargo would be gazette by the Federal Government for further actions. It would be recalled that since 2020, more than 5,000 containers of overtime cargo have taken about 30 per cent of the space meant for imports and exports.

Apart from the space constraint, concessionaires were forced to squeeze operations within the available space as trucks were not able to get access in and out of the terminals. Worried by the space constraint and operational challenges, NCS decided to move the cargoes to Ikorodu Lighter Terminal (ILT) with a view to create space for incoming cargoes.

According to service’s Head of the ILT Command, Assistant Controller H. Kidda, for instance, no fewer than 700 overtime containers including 1,000 abandoned used vehicles were transferred from the various port terminals in Lagos to the ILT as at July, 2020 in order to open up space for new cargoes at the ports.

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