Bonded terminal operators in Lagos have accused the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) of introducing an “illegal and impracticable policy” aimed at hampering business activities.
At the end of a meeting with the management of the Tin Can Island Customs command on Tuesday, the operators under the aegis of Association of Bonded Terminal Operators in Nigeria (ABTON) maintained that the Customs had been unable to address problems affecting bond related trades.
The federal government agency had, at the meeting, informed the terminal operators about the introduction of the payment of duty before the transfer of cargoes in containers to bonded terminals.
The operators, in response, asked for a three-month duration to enable them communicate with their clients over the new development, saying it was in line with the requirements of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
According to them, there was no prior information that payment of duties should be made at the port before transfer.
“We have N50 million cash bank bond with the customs. As at the time of our approval to operate a bonded terminal, we were not informed that we should pay duty at the mother port before transfer. So, it amounts to illegality if customs should at the middle of the relationship demand the payment of duty before transfer,” the operators said in a statement.
They maintained that such a move amounted to illegality if Customs should, in the middle of their relationship, demand the payment of duty before transfer.
“It’s unfortunate that Nigeria Customs is not confident enough to address the issue alleged. There are evidences to support the allegations.
“Resurrecting illegal and impracticable policy carved by very few management officers of the Nigerian Customs for their selfish interest would not and cannot solve the problem.
Haruna Omolajomo, Executive Secretary of ABTON, said he supported the call for three months grace for members to adapt to the new order.
He said such decision was not good enough especially that its implementation was with immediate effect.
“How can Customs come up with such policy and say its implementation is with immediate effect?
“I support that they give us some time to relate with our clients because Customs sometimes do not understand how bonded terminals work.”
Mr Omolajomo, however, added that the issues were not new to the operators but that the meeting served as a reminder and for members to be abreast with the new development.
When contacted, the Customs Public Relations Officer, Tin Can Island Command, Uche Ejesieme, confirmed there was a circular to that effect from the Customs headquarters but added that he did not understand ”the main issues raised in the circular”.
Mr Ejesieme, however, said the new policy was to forestall any loophole in cargo clearance in the port.
He noted that the policy was statutory but that “operators had not been keeping to them hence the need for collaboration and reminder or the bonded terminal operators to go back to the standard practice.”