The Customs Area Controller (CAC) Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone A, Ikeja, Comptroller Garba Uba Mohammed has called on the members of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) and indeed the general public to report customs officers defying the directive of the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali on dismantling of illegal checkpoints.
Comptroller Mohammed who made this call while hosting a delegation from NAGAFF who were on a courtesy visit to his office in Lagos on Wednesday said that while one may no longer see checkpoints on the roads, however, patrol bases may be seen from time to time which according to him were not expected to be there for more than 24 hours.
According to him,”The Executive Order states that no checkpoint above 40 kilometer radius , any checkpoint outside that place is illegal. A circular has been issued to that effect which is common knowledge, we don’t need to tell you, before we even tell you, you are already aware because if I go and set up a checkpoint outside the 40 kilometer and NAGAFF catch me, they will say you are operating illegally here.
“So, outside 40 kilometer radius, if you see any checkpoint, it is not a checkpoint, it is a patrol base and that one by law should not last more than 24 hours. You have every right, if you see any customs officers staying more than 24 hours outside the 40 kilometer radius, you are at liberty to report to the appropriate authority and you can challenge them that you have no right to stay there, you can only stay for 24 hours. That is what is stated”.
He noted that customs by its law was allowed to patrol every part of the country freely adding that section 147 of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) empowered customs officers without warrant to break into a place where there is a reasonable suspicion that uncustomed goods were warehoused and evacuate them and take them to government warehouse.
“Why we don’t normally invoke that section is, we are human beings, at times people react and in order to minimize human casualties, we enter into dialogue and say this is what is supposed to be done. So, if we say we are going to implement that section clearly, we will be having confrontations and once there is confrontation, there will be no progress, there will be disorder and the moment there is disorder, the environment is no more secured”, he said.
The CAC reminded the trading public that Executive Order notwithstanding, customs law remained in place and not repealed saying that the service could still recourse to it in facilitating legitimate trade.
He said,”We operate within the confines of the law, however, we are human being, you see, with respect to the ports, we do as much as possible to further sanitize, reforming customs officers, well you know on both sides, both on the side of the customs and on the side of the traders, agents or freight forwarders, you know in every system, even our own house, there might be some people who can be described as conformists, you will tell them to do this, they will try to circumvent the law for personal interest. This is the reason you have all the security agencies in the ports, that is why we have interventions and I think that is why Federal Operations Unit still exist. So, the issue of patrol bases, it is only Benin, Edo State and Asaba in Delta State are allowed”.
Earlier in his address, the National President of NAGAFF, Chief Increase Uche stated that the delegation was at the headquarters of the FOU Zone A to further strengthen the existing mutual relationship between the association and the FOU of the Nigerian Customs Service.
Uche added that NAGAFF appreciated the strategic role of the service in their operation especially in revenue and international trade related matters.
“This visit has become necessary in view of the Presidential Executive directive on Ease of Doing Business, consequent upon the issuance of circular No. 10/2017 on removal of all illegal checkpoints across the country which emerged through a letter dated 25th July, 2017 signed by the Ag. DCG (E,I&I) Alhaji Dangaladima A.A for the Comptroller-General of Customs.
“NAGAFF after a critical analysis of the Executive Order from PEBEC under the Presidency mooted the idea of reaching out to critical agencies of the government with a view to cross fertilize ideas on ways to ensure that the policy record huge success.
“It is our belief that with you in-charge of FOU and the leadership of CGC Compliance team that you shall allow justice to prevail by ensuring that circular No. 10/2017 of July 25th, 2017 is fully implemented and adhered to in practice. However, it is our belief that we should use this opportunity to get the full interpretation of the said circular especially the aspect of the items No. 3, 4 and 5. We will like to hear from you equally as to what happens to Benin checkpoint in Edo State and Asaba in Delta State and any other checkpoint outside the 40km from the border entry points”.
The NAGAFF boss therefore implored with the CAC to enter into strategic synergy with his counterparts at the ports with a view to ensuring proper customs examination adding that members of the association were worried over the level of damage being done to their clients’ investment arising from improper customs examination of laden containers.
He continued, while we implore you to work on this matter we also will plead that trade goods should not be unduly seized over this kind of infractions that could be corrected by additional assessment for duty and penalty thereto”.
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