The clearing agents working at the Tin Can Island Port have denounced the actions of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A of the Nigerian Customs Service posted at Berger Yard and Otto Wharf along Mile 2/Tin Can Lane, accusing officials of establishing excessive bottlenecks for the free flow of goods properly released from the port.
SHIPS & PORTS correspondent noted that the FOU operators, amid the heavy dust caused by the ongoing development along Mile 2/Tin, could now have their vehicles permanently stationed there, blocking not only the container-loaded trucks but the vehicles cleared from the port of Tin Can Island, thereby compounding the gridlock along the axis.
No less than 10 trucks were seen parking on the road on Thursday, as the operatives re-examined the clearance paper, as the disgruntled agents and truck drivers tried to negotiate the release of the containers.
Speaking with SHIPS & PORTS on progress, a clearing agent, Ari Ayuba, defined the activities of the FOU as troubling, not only causing delays, but also compounding the gridlock on the Mile 2/Tin Can route.
“The actions of customs officers on the road are alarming. They’re behaving like members of a cult and if they stop you, they’re threatening you to take your container to their office in Ikeja, which is really wrong. Our open borders are there for them to go and man, and they’re not. Yet they’re coming to where you’re going through the appropriate process only to stop and extort you.
“The building of the roads is another concern of its own, but the customs now compound it by parking the containers there needlessly. The dust on the road itself is not really good for humans to inhale, so they’re all in the dust because they’re making extra money. If there is a container that has a problem, Customs can devise a way to save the container from being used by any FOU operator, the warning must come from the command and it is the same customs. But if they do random sampling on a daily basis, slowing people’s products is not good for business,” he said.
Another agent, Ojo Akintoye, also said that the location had become another inspection bay for shipments coming from ports where the operatives were subject to coercion and extortion.
“We see customs FOU operatives there on a regular basis and the worst part of it is that the site has become their permanent site amid the gridlocked road development that residents are facing on a daily basis. It has become an inspection bay for shipments coming out of the port, except that you do the need by force or willingly.
“It is sad that we are in this situation because I have never seen that this kind of activity is taken place anywhere in the world where a truck exits the port and a few kilometers further, the same customs will stop it again and re-examine it,” he said.
When approached, Customs FOU spokesperson Peter Duniya feigned confusion about the presence of operatives along the route, claiming that they were not deployed there, but were acting solely on intelligence.
He said the trucks parking on the road on Thursday were seizures from intelligence gathering, adding that three of the containers had been transferred to the customs warehouse.
“Our officers are not stationed on the road and it is not a checkpoint. They act on information-based intelligence. What occurred yesterday was the seizure of three containers along the axis. So if there was a gridlock as a result of the activity, it was because the truck drivers refused to drive down to the warehouse, and another had an issue that it had to be towed down to the warehouse,” he added.