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Freight forwarders demand punishment for Customs officers over infractions on duty payment

The Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON) has asked the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency carry out a heavy punishment against the officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) found wanting in the inappropriate payment of duty to the government.

The association said that freight forwarders alone should not be punished by the leadership of customs for infractions noticed in the payment of duties to the government, while their officers who connived with the agents are left off the hook.

Balancing the Scales of Justice

A statement by Frank Ogunojemite, President of, APFFLON to journalists on Saturday, said that any officer found guilty in the serial infractions in duty payment on fairly used vehicles, popularly known as Tokunbo in the local parlance should be fetched out and dealt with accordingly.

Recall that Muhammed Musa, the Assistant Comptroller General of Customs, Tariff, and Trade, in a memo with the reference number: NCS/T&T/SYSAUD/S.5 Vol.1, dated July 17 and sighted by our correspondent, alleged that some of the freight forwarders were shortchanging the Federal Government.

Unveiling the Irregularities

Musa claimed that a new trend of infraction was discovered where the value approved on the assessment slip for the extended procedure Code 846 was not completely utilized.

The memo further instructed the Customs Area Controllers (CAC) to take immediate action to stop the infraction and also liaise with the Deputy Controller Revenue, Deputy Controller Valuation, and Deputy Controller Post Clearance Audit (PCA) to ensure recovery of lost revenue.

The list of some C numbers with such infractions was attached to the memo, stating that other C numbers would be forwarded in due course, saying that the profiling was a continuous process.

Ogunojemite declared that customs officers who were involved in the value cut on extended procedure Code 846 should also be compelled to make up for the differences discovered in the duty.

He further berated the officers for compromising their office by collecting bribes from clearing agents to release the vehicles without proper payment.

Ogunojemite insisted that freight forwarders could not have shortchanged the government without the connivance of a releasing officer, especially in this new era of automation.

The APFFLON President pointed out that freight forwarders and importers should not bear the brunt alone, stressing that the releasing officers who aided and abated the infractions should also be fetched out and punished by the customs management.

He said:

  • “It takes two to tango; in this case, it will be quite unfair to punish Peter and spare Paul for a crime they both committed.
  • If the management of the Nigeria Customs Service wants to be fair, just, and, professional as well, every officer who aided or connived with freight forwarders to shortchange the Federal Government must be prosecuted and if found guilty as charged, should go to jail or refunded the money he received with a heavy fine.
  • “Such officers should not be spared. That would serve as a deterrent to others who aid and abate financial crimes while in public office.
  • Corrupt public officers should not be treated with kid gloves if at all the fight against corruption is to be taken seriously.
  • “A lot of public and political appointees have enriched themselves by shortchanging well-meaning Nigerians. We cannot continue to see the occupation of public offices as an opportunity to loot and abuse the entire system. Corrupt officers should be prosecuted and if found guilty, sent to jail.”

A Call for Systemic Change

Ogunojemite maintained that most of the shady deals that are carried out in public and political offices in Nigeria could not happen in saner climes, emphasizing that countries where systems work do not celebrate corrupt people, but rather prosecute them when found guilty.

He decried that the freight forwarding sub-sector was completely down with various challenges, while importers are demoralized by trade policies that are emasculating their businesses.

He therefore called on the Federal Government to carry out a downward review of duty rates to save businesses from collapsing, bemoaning that entrepreneurs are losing their livelihoods, while importers could no longer import cargo into the country.

  • The Nigeria Customs and the supervising ministry, which is the Ministry of Finance, should as a matter of urgency, carry out a downward review of import duty rates,” he said.

 

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