The Congregation of Registered Freight Forwarding Practitioners of Nigeria (CREFFPON) has demanded that the customs officer who shot a freight forwarder along the Tincan – Mile 2 expressway in Lagos be fished out for dismissal from the Service and subsequently be prosecuted for attempted murder.
Recall that a freight forwarder in the course of taking delivery of a used Toyota car duly cleared at PTML terminal at the auto-wharf/Mile 2 FOU check point was said to have been shot by a customs officer allegedly on a flimsy excuse of attempting to drive off without paying the “Officer on duty” settlement.
CREFFPON in a statement in Lagos on Sunday by Mr. Edwin Chukwudire-Obi insisted that the Customs management should carry out a proper training of its officers to understand and grasp the workings of the service, especially on the pros and cons of the anti-smuggling operations.
It insisted that there was a distinction between a freight forwarder carrying out his daily professional practices within the customs ports corridor (less than 20 kilometers from the port access road) and a diehard smuggler who ply the unapproved routes to carry out his illegal enterprises.
It noted that the shooting of innocent and unarmed freight forwarders who were not smugglers nor found operating within or along the smuggling/unapproved routes on a mere flimsy excuse of not settling customs officers on duty was becoming rampant and condemnable.
According to CREFFPON, “Recall that sometimes in 2013, the FOU officer shot and brutally killed the Vice Chairman of NAGAFF Idioroko chapter, Chief Anayo Chinedu, just for stopping his car to mediate between the FOU officers and a bus driver who had arguments with the officers at their check point.
“It is on record that the Nigeria Customs framed him as a suspected smuggler to cover up their mess, but the report of the incident is documented with the international human rights organizations, while the NAGAFF has since then after series of protest, buried its own.
“We equally note with apprehension, the heightened extortions and harassment tendencies of the FOU officers in recent years.”
The group equally recalled that before now, the FOU and all Customs Area Commands had enjoyed reasonable peace and tranquility and trade facilitation was achieved smoothly.
“But that is not the same setting presently, as things has gone from worse to worst and trade facilitation is serially obstructed by the FOU unit of the Nigeria Customs.
“We also observed that the incessant interception of cleared cargo along the port access road can actually be coordinated in a manner that trade compliance will be achieved by deploying the S.M.A.R.T application devoid of internal parochialism and administrative incohesiveness between the area commands and external Customs unit.
“We also make bold to reemphasize that the setting up of Customs task forces in any disguise or form is a deliberate act of usurping the official duties of the line officers, whereas the Customs management lacks the administrative willpower to effectively supervise the progress of its officers and penalize erring officers for unethical and unwholesome practices in the cargo documentation, handling and processing operations.
“Finally, it is important for the enforcement officers of the Service to treat the freight forwarders, not just as partners in the revenue generation quest of the federal government, but with dignity and respect for human life. Acts capable of promoting undue provocation that may result to industry unrest must be avoided at all times. The application of rules of engagement and professionalism in the practice is the key approach to resolving all trade related disputes and not unbridled militancy.
“As such, we cannot overemphasize on the need to strengthen the symbiotic relationship that hitherto had existed between the men and officers of the service and the freight forwarders. It is never possible to wish away the professional truth that, ‘a customs officer and a customs licensed agent are two sides of a coin”, the group concluded.
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