A Lagos-based licensed customs agent, Prince Olusegun Ologbese, has advised the Federal Government to take the right step in the handling of the destination inspection contract presently under a six-month extension.
In a statement issued in Lagos and made available to THISDAY, Ologbese, who is also the life patron of the Ondo/Ekiti Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), said the federal government must not allow any other consideration except the interest of Nigeria, nay Nigerians, to be the sole determinant of its actions and inactions.
He said this was the only way it can take a dispassionate stand on the issues, since, according to him, there is now a proliferation of groups in the maritime sector of the economy who claimed to be experts at generating revenue for the federal government.
Ologbese who is regarded as veteran in the clearing and forwarding business enjoined the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to be vigilant so as not to fall into the traps set by these groups.
According to Ologbese, who is also Managing Director and CEO of Ogbese International Limited, some of these groups may be taking the position they have taken for their own personal interests.
“Some of them are claiming to be members of Paris or London Club. They are just the same people operating under different names in order to defraud Nigeria and Nigerians. They deliberately seized the opportunity of communication gap between the government and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) during the regime of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to achieve their selfish desires.
“At that time, the projects was named pre-shipment inspection agent and they were given the responsibility of inspecting imported goods into Nigeria. They were to determine the standard, quality and duties to be paid.
The veteran licensed customs agent, popularly called ‘Alaye Baba’ by his admirers, argued that even if the government was remote controlled it cannot work on everybody.
“In my full page interview with the Sunday Punch of Thursday May 23, 1993, I described the idea of our government leaving the inspection of goods imported into the country into the hands of foreigners as not only a security risk but a monumental fraud”, he said.
He added that efforts of those he called “patriotic and courageous people” to persuade the government to abandon the project fell on deaf ears. He said it took well over 16 years before the government could realise that, it has run from frying pan to fire.
Ologbese said now that the government is preparing to hand over DI to NCS, the foreigners are now looking for a way to circumvent the idea running from one government spokesman to another, from one Minister to another, even the military generals are not left behind.
The renowned customs agent lamented that they have again started mobilising people in and outside government that they want a contract to help technical inspection of the scanners. He said if NCS were allowed to do their job, they would have known that with new information technology, they needed to buy scanning machines of their choice.
He expressed hope that the NCS was capable of acquiring state-of-the-art technology equipment to take over the duties of DI.
“And that is the reason why people are crying that enough is enough for this cartel in maritime. This is because we need money to develop our country and repair our roads. The money these foreigners take in a year is enough to install our oil refinery and other infrastructural facilities”, he said.
Ologbese said that people have confidence that the cartel, which came under different names, would not be able to rubbish integrity of Okonjo-Iweala.
“This is our confidence. They should go to another country and leave Destination Inspection to the Customs after the expiration of six months. Nigeria is ready for Destination Inspection. Any Customs officer who passed the test of inspecting goods, assessing goods, identifying provisions and generating revenue would successfully passed out from Custom Training School. Therefore, anyone saying or asking whether NCS is ready for Destination Inspection is an agent of this group with many fingers and names”, he added.