Following the suspension of the protests and the strike action that greeted the partial implementation of the new automotive policy by the Nigeria Customs Service, embarked upon by the clearing agents at the PTML command, activities at the command has returned to normal.
Freight forwarders and agents had a fortnight ago downed tools at the command to register their displeasure over what they called the premature implementation f the new policy that was meant to commence on July 1, 2014.
Recall that the Nigeria Customs Service on Monday, the 5th day of May, 2014 commenced the implementation of thirty-five percent duty collection on all used vehicles imported into the country, an action that did not go down well with the agents.
A visit at the command by the Primetime Reporters revealed that normalcy has returned and that activities has picked up again at a once restive command with people going about their normal businesses without being molested by anybody as was the case two weeks ago.
A Licensed Customs agent, Comrade Tiger Nwokoma who spoke to Primetime Reporters on the development said that they cannot continue protesting and shutting down activities at the command since it has proven to be counterproductive.
Nwokoma stated that rather than protest and down tools, they have resorted to dialogue with the authorities with a view to resolving the matter amicably.
He observed that further protests and strike action would amount to a huge economic loss for both sides, which would eventually cripple the entire economy adding that that was not their wish as patriotic citizen of the lands.
According to him,” we are discussing on that. We are consulting with our leadership. We have approached our national executives; they have to approach the government in a nonviolent way to resolve the matter”.
“As at now, we are no more violent, so all we do is to resolve matters amicably. But we are still begging the federal government to see what they can do about this mater to revert the duty to the old rate so that the commoner will be comfortable with them”.
“If we close the port, we know how much we are losing in a day, the government is losing a lot, the terminal operators are losing and it is affecting our economy. So, by doing that, we are not helping the matter”, Nwokoma said.
He expressed the believe that since President Goodluck Jonathan is a listening President, he is going to listen to the pleas of his electorates who voted massively for him to better their lots and to the needful.
On the concerns raised in some quarters that the importers and not the agents should be the ones protesting since they are the ones directly affected by the new policy, Nwokoma said,” we are their (importers’) representatives, they don’t have a forum, there is no way they can come together. We have a forum that is why we are making impact”.
Also speaking, the Customs Public Relations Officer, PTML command, Steve Okonmah told Primetime Reporters that the command did not employ any other mechanism to get the agents back to their duty posts other than to tell them the truth.
Okonmah said that the agents have come to realize that the command was telling them the truth and was only implementing the policy of the government as directed by the Comptroller General Customs, Alhaji Inde Dikko Abdullahi.
He pointed that the protests ought not to have taken place, as there was no basis for that as what the agents should have done was to go back to the importers and relate the development to them.
He said,” the truth was the magic; we told them the truth that it was a government policy. Normally, there is no society where change goes so easily, there must be a resistance but this time, what are they resisting?”
“They are not importers; they are the ones paying the money not you. You are only an intermediary; tell the importer, this is what the government policy says and the importer wants his goods out, he has to do the right thing that he is supposed to do”.
On whether the Customs was going to revert to the old rate by the end of the ongoing discussions, he said,” we are government agents, we have what is called hierarchy, if our CGC today gives directive that this thing should become one percent, what do we do? We are to implement”.