Chinedu Eze

Customs personnel at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos have been accused of conniving with cargo agents to deprive the federal government of revenues that accrue from imported commodities.

Reports indicated that almost half of the goods imported are not declared by cargo agents because they allegedly collude with customs personnel to deny government of the tariffs that ought to be generated from the imported goods.

This was disclosed thurday by the new Customs Area Comptroller, Lagos Airport Command, Mrs. Jayne Shoboiki during a meeting with major stakeholders at the Lagos airport.

Shoboiki who was redeployed to the command about one week ago, insisted that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) would no longer tolerate diversion of government revenues by some unscrupulous elements in the system, especially among the cargo agents.

She explained that within a week of her redeployment to the command, she had noticed some loopholes in the system, which she intended to plug, stressing that the command would no longer tolerate any act of indiscipline by any of the agents and other stakeholders in the system.

She also alleged that some of the ground handling staff at the tarmac were not only conniving with the agents to shortchange government of deserving revenues, but also actively participate in stealing cargo at the tarmac.
She vowed that henceforth, such dastardly attitude would be checkmated by the system already put in place by the organisation.

She explained that the attitude of some of the staff had been a major challenge to the command in the past, but insisted that those manifesting that attitude would be made to stop it or face dire consequences.

“We seem to have a lot of challenges with the ground handling staff at this airport especially at the tarmac. They are not only conniving with the agents, but are also aiding and abetting in stealing of cargo at the tarmac. One of the ground handling agents visited me yesterday (Wednesday) and when I came out with a lot of evidences, they didn’t know what to say.

“I see no reason why we should steal cargo at the shed. The importer has given the agent the appropriate money for the clearance of the cargo, but some of the agents in connivance with some of the ground handling staff still go ahead to steal cargo. All that will stop. Any agent that is caught stealing cargo, his license would be seized. Also, agents should not collect contraband products from importers.

“I am not here to blame anyone, but to ensure that we make adjustments. I am here for revenue collection at the command. We need to have attitudinal change in whatever we do. I am not going to compromise my revenue collection or allow anyone to constitute an impediment to that change. I will adopt carrot and stick approach and I will not hesitate to use the stick when the need arises.”

Reacting to cargo stealing at the tarmac, Mr. Ahmed Bashir Gulmah, Head, Corporate Services, Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc, expressed surprise at the allegation.

Gulmah said NAHCO as an organisation had put in systems to checkmate any nefarious activities by its clients and staff.

He, however, agreed that there was no perfect system anywhere in the world, but assured that NAHCO would continue to cooperate with the customs and other stakeholders in the industry.