Concerns Grow over Rising Theft of Imported Goods at Tincan Island Port

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Eromosele Abiodun

Importers have expressed deep concern over rising incidents pertaining to theft of imported goods during examination and clearance from the Tincan Island ports which have resulted in severe losses to them (importers).

Some of the importers, who spoke to THISDAY on the issue, said imported goods were constantly being stolen at the Tincan Island ports but the theft has been on the increase in recent times. The urged the authorities to take stringent steps to secure imported consignments in order to save the business community from suffering severe losses.

To stem the menace, the importers suggested that besides intensifying security arrangements of imported consignments, the federal government should urgently replace dilapidated scanners at the ports across the country, pointing out that importers have continued to lose billions of naira owing to the physical examination of goods by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).

Some clearing agents, who spoke to THISDAY on condition of anonymity, blamed customs officials at the Tincan port for the peculiar rise in theft of imported goods. The agents “alleged that the officials open imported sealed items and remove most items, including personal effect in the imported consignment.”
The customs, officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Criminal Investigation Unit (CIU) are some of the agencies that carry out examination of imported goods.

“In recent months, the theft has been on the rise; clothing, footwears, wrist watches, jewellery, are some of the personal effects stolen on a daily bases at the Tincan Island port”, the importers lamented.

When contacted, the Chairman of Tincan Island Chapter of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Mattew Eseota confirmed that importers have suffered huge losses in recent times.

“I can confirm that we have experienced high cases of loss of personal effect running into billions of naira. However, the matter has been reported to security agents at the port. They are currently working on some cases and have also put plans in place to check the menace,” he said.

Some importers who decried the situation called on the Comptroller General of the NCS, Col Hameed Ali (rtd) to take urgent steps to stem the tide.

However, the Public Relations Officer, Tincan Island Command, Uche Ejesieme denied the allegation, insisting that customs officers at the port carry out their duties professionally and diligently.

According to him, “It may interest you to know that the Customs is not the only agency at the port, neither is it the only agency that participates in examination of cargoes. The service has rules of engagement which guide examination of cargo.”

He claimed that the command has not received any report of such theft from any importer. “We therefore challenge anybody with a genuine case of such to bring it up as no stone will be left unturned in dealing decisively with such”, he stressed.

The President of NCMDLCA, Mr. Lucky Amiwero had recently called on the federal government to constitute a committee to probe the breakdown of scanners at the ports and the need to evaluate them for possible repairs.

In a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari, Amiwero said the present state of the scanning equipment at the ports was a result of total neglect by the NCS personnel who supervised the transfer of the equipment from the providers.

He said the acquisition of the scanners was contracted under the Destination Inspection Scheme between the Federal Government of Nigeria and some service providers. The service providers include: Cotecna, SGS and Global Scan, who were contracted on a Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) basis, for a period of seven years from January 1, 2006 to December 31, 2012, which was finally extended for one year by the federal government.

“The agreement for the provision, installation, operation and management of x-ray scanning equipment and software for examination of goods between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Cotecna Inspection Limited, Societe general de surveillance (SGS) and Global ScanSystems Limited is as contained in Articles 4 to 4.3 which provides for ownership of equipment during the duration of the contract and the transfer to federal government,” he said.

He added: “As draft committee chairman of the Reconstituted Presidential Task Force on the Reform of Nigeria Customs Service (RPTFCR) in 2010 and also member of the Presidential Committee of Destination Inspection (DI), in 1999/2006, I am obligated to advise on the need to critically look at the breakdown scanners in the port for possible repairs.”