A chieftain of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Prince Segun Oduntan has blamed the lingering crisis rocking the association as reason for the lack of robust engagement between Customs and clearing agents before new policies are introduced.
Clearing agents have been having a running battle with Customs over introduction of new policies on imported vehicles with the recent being the imposition of 15 percent levy on vehicles.
The agents had accused Customs of not having due consultation with them before introducing the controversial auto policies, some of which they described as illegal.
Speaking in a chat with Maritime Today Online, Oduntan said because of the crisis, ANLCA has lost focus and relevance, hence Customs no longer take it seriously before major decisions that would affect operations of licensed agents and freight forwarders are taken.
He said, “The issues we have with Customs is because of lack of engagement, because ANLCA has lost focus. They (Customs) know the leadership crisis is a problem. That is why they are not engaging us properly. If it were to be the days when ANLCA was united, all the issues, the new policies you talk of NAC, VIN valuation and others would have been nipped in the bud because the Customs has a dispute resolution committee, they used to engage before.
“When Ali came on board, he came to the national secretariat and addressed us and we went to him too. That is the type of engagement we are talking about. Because they are the ones that license us, they cannot do anything without taking us along but where we have lost relevance is when Customs that license us implement policies without telling us. Even if that happens, we are supposed to approach Customs but the present NECOM lost that focus and all they do is write petitions.
“If the house is not divided, we would have gone to the Customs CG because he respects our view as an association. If we discuss in- house, they will make an amendment but because of the crisis, most discussion if any always end in stalemate.”
Oduntan, who is also the Managing Director of Settle Sea Nigeria Limited and a former Chairman of ANLCA at the Tin Can Island port accused the Vice President of the association, Kayode Farinto of being responsible for the problem that had smeared the association’s image before Customs, stressing that his plot to perpetuate himself in office even after the expiration of his tenure would be resisted.
He, however, noted that in the next one month, a new ANLCA will emerge and ‘everybody will be happy’ just as he advocated that an Igbo candidate should be elected to complete the second four-year tenure of Tony Nwabunike.
“The issue of five years tenure elongation which they went and do in Owerri is null and void and dead-on arrival. Which board was present in that place? Was it the registered board or their own fake board that is not certificated?
“Even in national politics, you cannot be in office and do an amendment of the constitution and now expect to be a beneficiary of that amendment. So, the amendment they claim to do cannot hold water. I will not tell the registered board what to do. Somebody, who has done four years and could not achieve anything, what will they be able to achieve in one year? But I can tell you categorically that they (NECOM) won’t be in that secretariat for one year.
“How many of them came into office as NECOM? How many of them are remaining today? The treasurer, Zonal Coordinator, National Publicity Secretary, Zonal secretary are no more there. The President said he is going on study leave because he has seen that the center cannot hold. So how many of them want to do the tenure elongation? And somebody is there calling himself acting President when his tenure has expired. That is a sign that the house is divided even among them. It was the same Farinto that led the Tony administration into disarray. Not long after Tony Iju came in as President, he left to campaign for House of Representation, Farinto was in charge for over a year and that period was the beginning of the crisis in ANLCA.
“Why do they want to perpetuate themselves in office? When I came into office as Tin Can Chairman, I did my tenure and after my second term, I was given an extension of three months because of the crisis and after that I left. I was first of all a customs broker before I joined the association. The President said he is going on leave because he has other life to live so what is Farinto and Mukaila looking for that they cannot leave after serving their term? If Tony said he is okay with his first term, so be it. Let the Igbo go and bring another person to complete their term. That was the gentleman agreement we had,” he said.
Meanwhile, Oduntan has kicked against the call for the return of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to the port, stating that the campaign was for personal gain and not in the interest of the industry.
He wondered why some agents would clamour for such at a time when cargo clearance at other neighbouring ports have been fully digitalised.
“In today’s modern age when we are talking of seamless port operation and reduction of agencies at the port, somebody is still clamoring and campaigning that SON should return to the port. If SON cannot perform without residing in the port, why can’t they write to the Presidency that Customs should give them access to their portal and to some level, SON still block cargo inside the port.
“I was in Ghana some time ago and I was ashamed of myself being a practitioner in Nigeria because I see friends in their offices working. Go to their port, you will not see anybody. Go to their CPC, you will be amazed. If the shipping companies in Ghana have to do any increment, they have to engage the stakeholders. We had a meeting with the Customs CG there and he said the template they are using in Ghana that gave them the seamless operation was from here in Nigeria but because of personal interest we have not allowed the system to work in Nigeria,” he said.