Government policy on ease of doing business at the ports faced fresh hurdles Thursday following a red alert placed by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on all seaports, land borders and airports across Nigeria over increasing illegal importation of arms into the country.
The Federal Government this year issued an Executive Order directing that operators should make sure that cargoes do not stay more than 48 hours in the ports as a way of facilitating trade.
Even though the directive was dead on arrival due to poor port access roads and dysfunctional scanners, the latest directive by the Customs would only compound the woes of shippers and their agents as it will take a longer time to carry out physical examination.
This will also lead to accrual of demurrage by importers.
Customs comptroller general, Hameed Ali, said the service had to adopt the measure in order to be able to profile all goods and containers coming through the entry points to avoid infiltration of arms into the country.
He told the media at a briefing Thursday in Lagos on the 470 pump action rifles intercepted at the TinCan Island Customs Command by the service.
This latest seizure takes the number of arms seizures at the command to four in the last eight months amounting to 2,671 pump action rifles within the period.
The CGC said that like previous seizures, the 40 feet container was imported from Turkey, adding that containers from Turkey were being subjected to profiling because previous seizures originated from the country.
He said that the containers were eventually narrowed down to one 20 feet container with number: CMAU189817/8 where the terminal operator was consequently directed to quarantine the flagged container for stricter analysis.
He added that the container was later transferred to enforcement unit where 100 percent examination revealed 470 pump action rifles as against elbow plumbing plastics on the bill of lading.
He said, “As our seaports become increasingly impenetrable, we suspect they may want to try other entry points.
“Let me assure Nigerians that the Service is presently at critical alert following my directive to all Customs Area Controllers yesterday. We will do all in our powers to further secure this country,” he maintained.
He further stated that all goods, containers coming into the country would henceforth be subjected to profiling before they will be allowed to come into the country.
He however assured that since the new container belongs to the same importer as the container of 1,100 pump action rifles, investigations would be reinvigorated to fish out all those directly or remotely connected with the importation.
He regretted that the new model might impinge on the federal government’s policy on ‘Ease of doing business in the ports as it has become necessary to carry out 100 percent examination on all containers.