Agents at Tincan Island port say they have been working with officers at Terminal D1, but never encountered an officer like the current Officer in charge (O/C) of Five Star Terminal (D1), Deputy Comptroller Caroline Ayo, describing her as extremely strict.
One of the agents who spoke under anonymity described the woman as a clog in their wheel of progress, saying that she does government job as if it is her family business. He complained that the DC is in the habit of not allowing any form of infraction as she is always bent on making agents pay dearly for wrong declarations and short payments, accusing her of being unfriendly and insensitive to the plights of agents.
When asked of his expectations of the Deputy Comptroller, the agent had this to say, “agents are not finding things easy, to get job from importers is not a child’s play and as a family man saddled with responsibilities, you don’t get a job and an officer somewhere becomes a stumbling block to you either because of an infraction noticed in your declaration or a little discrepancy in your payment. The DC must thoroughly scrutinize every document and she is very quick at pointing out errors that would make you pay additional duty, thereby making one sound so unprofessional before his importer.”
He went further to say that “she is too strict and would not give room for settlement. The worst part of it is that no amount of plea would deter her from referring the infractions to Valuation Unit just to make you pay to the last Kobo. The DC is so meticulous.”
“As a woman and a mother that she is, there should be an agreement for settlement than referring you to either valuation or raise a Demand Notice (DN) that would make the agent lose every Kobo and not only that, you also have the gate and the Federal Operations Unit to contend with after that. All these amount to efforts in futility because we keep working and no value is being added. l am not saying that she should not be diligent, my grouse is that she is too meticulous for my liking, such uncompromising officer is not needed here, she is impoverishing us rather than adding value to us”, he protested.
Another clearing agent who chose to remain anonymous corroborated the allegation saying that DC Ayo does not handle jobs like someone who needs money adding that “l am amazed the way some of these public officers keep claiming ‘holier than thou’, that is why you see some of them coming to beg their colleagues who are still in the service for money few months after their retirement, all because they failed to utilize the opportunities that came their way while still in the service.”
He further said that “Nigeria is no one’s estate and no public officer will tell you that he does not ‘play ball’, but the officer is really not cooperating with agents at all, too bad.”
In order not to rely on lopsided information this reporter interviewed another freight forwarder, Ejike Godswill, who claimed to have known DC Caroline Ayo Esq. for over fifteen years, conversely, described the DC as an exceptional character, attributing her career success to her family values, as well as her insatiable appetite for knowledge.
ln his words, D/C C.E Ayo Esq. is one of those seasoned officers who works so hard to give the organization a facelift; talk about integrity, transparency and professionalism, her name must be prominently and colourfully written in the compendium of public officers who possess these virtues”.
He added that “anyone casting her in bad light is only trying to ‘give a dog a bad name in order to hang it’; they are only being mischievous”.
He went further to say, “the problem some agents have with the officer is that, at every point in time, she tries to tutor them on the right ways of doing things, she is so prudent and pragmatic and hates to see people conduct themselves in an unprofessional manner. She wants you to always do the right thing, either because of her profession as a lawyer, her family values or her patriotism or probably, her religious background. But to say the least, the officer remains one of the best things to happen to Nigeria Customs Service. I choose to remain anonymous for reasons best known to me, but you can take this testimony about this officer to the bank. She is indeed exceptional and l pray that God Almighty will always prepare and position people of her kind at strategic places of leadership.”
Another freight forwarder, Chris Ezenagu, when approached for his opinion on the same issue, had this to say, “I have been working with Customs officers for twenty five years now and l make bold to say that the O/C Terminal D1, DC C.E Ayo is one officer that has distinguished herself in many ways than one. She is a professional who puts the right attitude to work; she is not only a public officer but also a true mother. Those casting aspersions on her personality have a sinister purpose; they are unnecessarily aggrieved people who mindlessly cast stones at the innocent.
“I guess their problem is that they have not had an interface with the officer, they probably based their accusations on hearsay. Sincerely speaking, she used to be very thorough and if you can’t make her see reasons why she should delve into your matter, she faces another thing and once she tries to tutor you on how to do it right and you refuse to go that way, she takes her decision. That is who she is. The DC hates to see anyone circumventing the rules, with her, always do the right thing at the right time.”
When contacted, Deputy Comptroller Caroline Ayo dismissed those who keep lamenting and criticizing her principles and the way she carries out her duty as mischievous, dishonest and lacking in integrity saying that she cannot dance to their tunes.
In her words,” l keep encountering people who present themselves as clearing agents but cannot make a good use of the tariff not to talk of looking into the CEMA. Some don’t even know the job, disgruntled elements who always want to have their ways; once you tell them the right thing to do they brand you a wicked woman. l cannot because of them compromise my family values, l have a name to protect and must keep my integrity intact.”
Continuing, the DC said, “l have been in this job for 29 years and have never at one time or the other been found wanting, is it now that l am at the peak of my career that l will begin to do despicable things that could tarnish my image? Why would l do that? They should have a rethink and start doing the right things.”
The DC went further to say “If you and your importers cannot make the right declaration or you find a way to cut corners, thinking that DC Caroline Ayo will comply with you in your shenanigans, far from that joke. I can’t encourage anyone who is bent on circumventing the rules, never. I will keep doing the job the right way. l didn’t come here to align with uninformed people who suddenly develop verbal diarrhea because their expectations are not being met, a set of dishonest people. My candid advice to them is that they should always do the right thing, that’s all.”
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