As the Yuletide approaches, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Apapa command, has embarked on programmes to facilitate trade at the country’s biggest port, and the importers and clearing agents are happy for it, The Nation has learnt.
Its Area Controller, Mr Charles Edike, it was gathered, had adopted the trade facilitation programme of the Federal Government by fast-tracking cargo clearance procedures and implementing Customs policies on quick cargo clearance to the fullest to generate more revenue and boost the economy.
The effective manner the Comptroller-General of Customs Alhaji Dikko Abdullahi has directed his officers to implement his six-point agenda, it was learnt, was responsible for the success the service had recorded in Apapa and other notable commands in terms of the modernisation and transformation of Customs’ operations, a development, which importers and other operators said, had contributed to the quick clearance of cargoes from the Apapa port.
The Area Controller, Apapa command, stakeholders said, had no option than to embark on trade facilitation because he had received the needed support of his Comptroller-General to organise and manage the highest revenue yielding command in the country, cum the West and Central Africa sub-region.
His zeal and patriotism for the development of the economy, findings revealed, was responsible for why he was moved to Apapa command to carry out the onerous task which, stakeholders said, he had done diligently.
The President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu, said Edike does not joke with trade facilitation of the Federal Government.
“No paper stays on Edike’s table for more than 15 minutes before he releases them for quick cargo clearance.This is also because he has made the principle his watch word since his assumption of office as the Controller in Apapa Area Command and in all the commands he has been posted.
“He believes that when any document experiences delay, the implications can be more. Thus, as far as he is concerned, prompt treatment of documents is a must in his command. According to him, the documents represent money and the government needs the money to develop the country and provide jobs for the youths,“ he said.
Shittu also described Edike as a humble and listening Senior Customs officer who attend to every issue brought to his attention to attract business to the port.
“With the support of Alhaji Dikko, Edike was been able to reactivate the erstwhile dormant Container Terminal in Ijora, through constant and consistent stemming of containers to the terminal, a development that has not only kept the inland terminal alive up till today, but has also assisted in giving a lease of livelihood to importers and those of us in the cargo clearance business.
Also, a senior officer of the command, who does not want his name in print, said the Area Controller had inculcated his trade facilitation message in his officers and tutored them on why they must delay documents to avoid sanctions.
“Edike has tutored us that when you delay import documents, you increase the cost of clearing such goods, because you make the importers to accumulate demurrage and you delay the purpose for which such goods would have been put to used for the proper development of the economy.
“It is through his rare determination to block revenue loopholes and ability to combat corruption following the instruction given by the CGC that has made it possible for our command to collect an unprecedented N30,499,921,212 in September and N31,567,536,965 in October, this year. The figure is far more than the amount the command generated in the same period last year,” the officer said.
Also, the Chairman of the Lillypond Container Terminal chapter of ANLCA, Prince Chuks Njemanze, said he was impressed with the performance of Edike on trade facilitation and stemming of containers to Lillypond terminal.
As part of efforts to solve the problem of server and network failure frequently encountered by importers and clearing agents at the ports, the Customs, he said, had inaugurated a newly built 160-meter communication tower for trade facilitation and launched a world-class Information Communication Training (ICT) centre at the Apapa command to boost the efficiency of its officers and men.
Addressing reporters on behalf of other stakeholders in Lagos, the Chairman, Apapa Chapter of ANLCA, Mr Olumide Fakanlu, said they were happy with the way the Area Controller was handling the Fast-Track Scheme (FTS) introduced by Customs to boost cargo clearance procedure at the ports.
If not for the way the scheme was being handled, Fakanlu said, “the situation at Apapa port would have worsened because the terminal operator cannot handle more than 200 containers per day. “
Fakanlu also berated the unnecessary additional storage charges the importers and their clearing pay terminal operators.—The Nation