The 100% Compliance Team of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has reacted to the allegation of extortion levelled against operatives of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone ‘A’ of the Nigeria Customs Service and the Comptroller General Strike Force.
Recall that the Tin Can chapter Chairman of the African Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON) Emeka Nwosu and President, Patriot Anti-Corruption Initiative in Nigeria, Steve Ibe, had in an interview condemned the operations of the Customs anti-smuggling units, describing its operatives as extortionists.
The National Chairman of the NAGAFF 100% Compliance Team, Alh. Ibrahim Tanko, while addressing newsmen last weekend condemned the allegations, which he said is unverified, describing it as malicious and baseless.
Tanko warned the duo to desist from blackmailing those who “are diligently performing their duties and be compliant to the extant Customs laws as they engage in their freight forwarding activities.”
He opined that most of them pointing accusing fingers on Customs engage in wrong classifications, false declarations of cargoes, under payment of Customs duty among others and wondered why such willful infractions should not be surcharged.
Tanko who is also a member of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) Governing Council advised importers and freight agents to approach their business with dignity and respect in order to avoid interceptions, extra charges and forfeiture of their cargoes.
“You remember when we started this campaign on compliance, we are not the ones that insisted on it, it is the Customs, in fact the government. They are the ones accusing us that freight forwarders are not compliant.
“That is the main reason why NAGAFF decided to float this Compliance Team. Remember today, we are two years plus now. We started from the importers. Those are the people we relate with directly. They are our customers. We spent six months educating them to do the right thing and the benefits of complying as well as the inherent dangers of doing the wrong thing. A lot of people lose their containers because they refused to do the right thing.
“Declare what you have. If you have 1,000 pieces of generator, classify it correctly, examine your container and pay the right duty.
“Whether one million people are on the road, did that concern you, the answer is NO. When they say give me your documents, you give them your documents. They examined it and found you have 1,000 pieces of generator, are they going to give you another DN, the answer is No.
“Do we always do the right thing? That is the problem. We have been campaigning about it and our members now see us as their enemies. If you do the right thing, you cannot be afraid of anyone. You go home and sleep. The highest thing, you plead on the value they give to you.
“The person you saw in that video castigating Customs is the very person I saw at Apapa Command pleading with the Area Controller who wanted to seize his container. The same person now went on air complaining without shame. Let’s talk to ourselves. Let’s do the right thing.
“I had to go to Strike Force and I found out that out of 100 letters of invitation for examination, 90 percent are on false declaration and they raised DN after examination and confirmation.
“I had a letter of invitation for examination, the containers were examined and they found nothing. They wrote satisfactory and then released the container.
“What we should complain about is the Police who detain and examine containers. What concerns Police with Duty? They write series of letter inviting agents to come and explain about a container that he had already delivered,” he said.
On his part, the Western Zonal Coordinator, 100%Compliance Team, Dr. Fred Ajuzie, stressed that indicting Customs operatives that are carrying out their legitimate duty is uncalled for, adding that it shows they (accusers) are not compliant to the rules of engagement.
“This is what we are preaching to our members-freight forwarders to be compliant. If they are compliant, would anyone have the right to extort money from them? If you see any freight forwarder complaining, it means he is not compliant. He is engaging in false declaration of cargo.
“The 100% Compliance Team of NAGAFF frowns at any freight forwarder who is not doing the right thing,” he added.
He described the operatives of the FOU and CG Strike Force as professionals who go about their lawful duties fearlessly without minding who is involved adding that, “They don’t know who you are. Once they see your document and find out that it is wanting, they pick your container straight to their warehouse.
“FOU and Strike Force now are very tense in terms of enforcement. They are on ground and the system they are using now is different from the old system. It is not FOU with roadblocks, No. You will not see them, but they will come after your cargo immediately they find out that what you declare is different from what they saw. They take your cargo to their warehouse and then raise DN or give a seizure.
“I have never seen where they are demanding money. It is the freight forwarders that begs them to accept money. They won’t give you that chance,” he concluded.