Reprieve has finally come the way of freight forwarders in the country over the trapped third party containers at the Lagos ports.
This is because the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has agreed to resume the clearing procedures of over 5,000 third party containers trapped in the wake of the controversial suspension order.
The reprieve however carries 25 per cent penalty.
THISDAY gathered that the Comptroller General of the NCS, Col Hameed Ali (Rtd.), may have acceded to the appeal for amnesty on the trapped as he has directed that the Area Controllers of customs commands should resume their clearing procedures.
It was further gathered that the compliance team deployed by the customs boss from Abuja to superintendent over the issue has been withdrawn.
The customs authority had in a circular signed by the Deputy Comptroller-General in charge of Tariff and Trade, Issa Talatu in January this year ordered the immediate stop to the clearance of goods that had discrepancies in the names of importers and other information provided in the clearing documents.
Specifically, the customs authority said it was alarmed at the increasing practice among freight forwarders, who clear goods with Form M, Bill of laden and PAAR, that carry different names from that of the consignees.
The customs boss, Hameed Ali, had directed all Area Controllers to suspend the release, forthwith till further notice, any cargoes with discrepancies in their documentation.
Over 5,000 containers were said to have been trapped at the Lagos ports as a result of the directive.
To compound the misery of the distraught freight forwarders, who had severally appealed to Ali for an amnesty as a result of their plight, the customs helmsman had also deployed multiple units of ad-hoc task force teams whose operations were said to be duplication of customs duties.
The Vice-President of the western zone of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders(NAGAFF), Alhaji Tanko Ibrahim, who confirmed the cheering development, however said the amnesty granted to the controversial containers was not without a cost.
He disclosed that the owners of the trapped containers would pay 25 per cent of the total payable duties as a penalty.
He, was however, full of praises for the Comptroller-Genreal, Hameed Ali and DCG, T&T, Issa Talatu, for what he described as their timely intervention to bring succour to the freight forwarders.
An elated Tanko, who also lauded the Customs boss for giving listening ears to the yearnings of the aggrieved Customs brokers, promised the Customs High Command that the agents would not abuse the privileges given to them.
Tanko, also declared that apart from the withdrawal of the Compliance team from the ports, the Customs boss had promised to withdraw other ad-hoc teams from customs clearance procedures at the ports.
“I, on behalf of my appreciative colleagues, thank the CG and DCG Talatu for this uncommon gesture and high sense of responsibility they displayed on this matter”
“We can only wish that other task force teams are withdrawn from the ports to ensure smooth cargo clearance procedures, “Alhaji Tanko Ibrahim declared.
Some aggrieved Customs brokers under the aegis of Concerned Freight Forwarders in the western zone had recently threatened to go on strike if the task forces such as CG Strike force, compliance team, customs police, Surveillance team, Information team and other ad-hoc teams sent from the headquarters to the ports are not withdrawn within the 72-hours.
At a joint press briefing held in Apapa, various associations which included the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) and National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), lamented that the customs boss had allegedly deployed a team from Abuja to checkmate activities of the various commands.
It took the intervention of some members of the Governing board of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) to douse the tension.
The council has promised to interface with the Customs High Command to resolve the matter, the promise which may have yielded the reprieve.