Fate of sealed Lagos bonded terminal uncertain
By Eguono Odjegba
The sealing of a controversial bonded terminal situate within Kirikiri Lighter Terminal Command by the management of the Nigeria Customs Service which has remained in force three weeks after, have put question mark on the fate the terminal as well indeed, fate of containers that have been processed for clearance and technically released.
The terminal which was still under ‘lock and key’ as at weekend also have all articulated trucks numbering over ten already in the facility to pick up containers before the sealing was carried out, trapped inside.
Users of the facility including importers, clearing agents and freight forwarders have expressed frustration at the protracted development and called on the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali, retired, to resolve the issues without further delay and allow importers take their consignments.
Chibundi Okeke, a customs clearing agent commenting on the development said the situation is driving business people frantic because of its cost implications and faulted the leadership of the Nigeria Customs Service for causing what the he described as “avoidable embarrassment.”
“This is tree weeks they sealed this place, containers that have been positioned to exit are trapped together with the trucks. And what we are hearing doesn’t make sense and does not even concern us, they should just open the settle their internal problems and open the place for containers insider to be taken by their owners.
“This problem is avoidable in the first place. Ali created a command within a command, that’s the problem. If they are telling themselves the truth in Abuja, this matter can be resolved very quickly, identify the problem and correct the mistake, simple. Instead they are keeping us here, that is very unfair because we are losing money and time, some of us are working with loans, we don’t have all the time in the world”, he lamented.
Pinnacle Time checks revealed that the bonded warehouse known as Clarion Terminal was established within the premises of KLT Command and operated by Apapa Command, until it was sealed. The sealing believed to have been ordered from the customs headquarters is further believed to have followed operational and administrative hitches, prompting headquarters to order the terminals immediate shut down.
National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Iju Tony Nwabunike said “I don’t see it as a big problem, government business sometimes run into some conflicts. I think the actual problem here is the inability of customs leaders to critically look into the matter and come out with the best solution, they are wasting time and business cost is building up.
He said, “Ordinary misleading address can create problem in a business setup. From what I heard, permit was granted to the terminal to be sited at Kirikiri, it appears customs acted on incomplete information submitted to it, because at the end of the day, the actual address was not Kirikiri but a customs command premises in Kirikiri.”
Adding: “We believe that the customs management can do better by working as a team and carrying out proper vetting of business proposals to avoid this unfortunate scenario in the future.”
Efforts to get the Lagos Zonal Coordinator, ACG Katherine C. Ekekezie give an update on the development proved abortive as she did not pick telephone calls made to her. She did not also reply a text message sent to her on the issue.
But a senior customs officials attached to the troubled terminal said “the matter has been resolved, we are only waiting for Abuja to make pronouncement. I don’t know whether the terminal is going to be retained by Apapa Command or placed under Kirikiri Lighter Terminal Command, but however it goes, customs is one, so there is no cause for alarm.”