As agency wants case of invasion charged to court
The Lagos State Wharf Landing Fee Collection Agency (LSWLCA) has vowed to drag the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Tin Can Island Port chapter to court for alleged raid of its premises.
The agency further alleged that ANLCA released unspecified number of imported vehicles it impounded and detained in its premises, located at Liverpool Apapa, accusing the association of intimidation and unlawful act prejudicial to civilized conducts.
The Wharf Landing Authority public relations officer, Mr. Mike Opiteh said ANLCA and its members often avoid payment of the wharf landing statutory fee, and prefers to cut corners using touts and other state agents to provide get away routes for imported vehicles leaving the ports. The image maker however said look ran against the agents last week, when the agency impounded several of their vehicles, in the cause of trying to beat its officials, through traffic diversion.
Opiteh argued that the drivers of the seized vehicles prefer dealing with touts and other government officials to avoid payment of the agency’s statutory N300. Asked if it made sense to risk seizure and penalty payment of N100, 000.00 over N100, he said the agents and their importers, and not the agency made the choice.
He also accused the invading ANLCA officials of stealing his two phones, and disclosed that ANLCA was piling pressure on the police to settle the matter amicably;, noting however, that management of the Lagos Wharf Landing Authority has resolved not to listen to their plea for settlement, and is insisting that ANLCA and those involved in the invasion of its premises and forceful release of vehicles already detained by it be charged to court.
Given account of what happened, Opiteh said, “It is true we seized some of their vehicles. All the seized vehicles attempted to beat our officials, and we out smarted them. Instead of paying the wharf landing fee of N300, they collude with touts and LASTMA officials, give them N100 and N200.
“The customs agents under the auspices of ANLCA came to our office in their task force vehicle. They just went wild and took away the vehicles we have earlier impounded for violation. Luckily our men were able to take photo snap of the vehicle plate number. We reported the raid to the Area B Police and they have traced the vehicle and impounded it.
“They stole my two phones; it was just yesterday I recovered the lines. As at yesterday, Friday, three of their executives came and were begging that they are ready to settle. But our management does not want settlement, they want the matter to be charged to court, and they have told the police so”, he said.
But reacting, the agents said the Lagos Wharf Landing Authority have transformed into a criminal gang, deploying criminal tricks in its operational modus to extort importers and their agents of huge sums of money, hiding behind the law.
According to the agents, the matter spin out of control last week, when clearing agents operating at Tin Can Island Port Lagos, were stopped along a traffic diversion at the Liverpool Bridge by LASTMA officials; and every imported vehicle passing through the diversion arrested and summarily impounded.
An ANLCA source said efforts by executives of the Tin Can Island chapter of ANLCA to explain the situation and make peace was rebuffed by officials of the agency, which later degenerated and led to the mass action and removal of vehicles, they claimed were wrongfully impounded.
While statutory payments to the Wharf Landing agents over a single vehicle is N300, impounded vehicles alleged to have attempted invading the payment of the statutory wharf landing fee is made to pay N100,000 fine.
Our reporter gathered on good authority that the Nigerian Police, Area B, Apapa invited the ANLCA Tin Can Island Port chairman of ANLCA, Prince Segun Oduntan over the reported invasion, where the chapter’s operational bus was also believed to have been impounded by the police, when the association chapter leadership answered the police invitation.
A source told our reporter that “Our chairman and the entire executives were invited on Thursday; we left Area B around 10pm in the night.” Earlier, a stakeholder, one Mr. Frank Obiekezie, broke the news of the attack on social media, where he gave a graphic account of what led to the fracas.
Obiekezie said, “As a result of gridlock at Liverpool bridge, most vehicles are passed through the other end of the roundabout by LASTMA Officials, the Wharf Landing agent usually feels the tokunbo cars are trying to avoid paying their fees.
“In view of this, they apprehended and took these vehicles to their yard in Marine road. They have started issuing a 100k ticket fine for the ones they apprehend. All efforts to make them understand that it was LASTMA that passed them through the alternative route fell on deaf ears.
“As at yesterday (Wednesday) we saw that they have impounded more tokunboh vehicles, the chairman and entourage tried to intervene but to no avail. This made members went on rampage that this cheating is too much and have to march to their yard and forcefully released all the vehicles illegally apprehended with exception of about two.”
Obiekezie said the LSWLCA Chairman, Prince Gboyega Salvador- Adebayo has started calling some of the clearing agents and threatening to unleash soldiers on them. He described the action of the agency as tantamount to illegal revenue generation, hiding under the law.
“They are making it virtually impossible for us do our work and earn a decent living. A big crisis is looming and the entire system may not survive it. The regulators appear overwhelmed, even though they will not be willing to say so. Anarchy cannot be ruled out in the ports in the face of this persistent onslaught on freight forwarders and customs brokers”, he warned.