Fred Ajuzie is the Apapa Chairman, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), in this interview with Sanni Mariam he talked about corruption in Customs and low import into the country.
Import into the country is low due to some government policies, how has this affected your business?
Well, we all know we have a change of government and the newly elected president is someone that like prudence and do not compromise. First of all, the economy have to stand still for him to start off on a very good note we have been operating on a very wrong note but he want to start a system where we can conform so, he want to monitor all that is happening in the economy. The policies put in place will affect the economy but after that we will start scoring him because now that there is a change, it will affect the economy.
The policies have changed because the Central Bank is not giving forex for people that are importing and Nigeria is an import driven country and things are slow on importation definitely it will affect the economy.
As part on the change, we have a new Comptroller-General of Customs who is threatening to jail corrupt officers, has his stance reduced corruption in the service?
The new Comptroller-General was not appointed immediately the government came in and when he was appointed, it took him sometime to resume and before he started touring the port, it was after about a month when he came in and it was not immediately he started visiting stakeholders because he has to understand the terrain looking at the fact that he has a military background and not a Customs officers before though as a military officer, he might want to think he knows all but I know Customs is a professional job so he has to come in to study the terrain. Also, he has a mandate from the President which was to improve revenue, reform and to restructure the service. Now, revenue and restructuring is what he is into now.
On revenue generation, there won’t be more revenue because import is low definitely they cannot make what they are making then and on the other side of restructuring, he has started by asking everyone to declare their asset he has also changed controller of commands and I know he is taking his time he also introduced exercise every Thursday for officers because he said most officers are not fit and they need fitness to do their jobs which will make them to be alert to do their job.
And on corruption, we know everywhere in Nigeria is all about corruption and not only Customs alone so corruption is a norms in the country I am a liscened agent so if Customs is corrupt today we are all part of it because agents are working with them. So any officer that is corrupt should be brought to book.
On corruption, we know everywhere in Nigeria is all about corruption and not only Customs alone so corruption is a norms in the country I am a liscened agent so if Customs is corrupt today we are all part of it because agents are working with them. So any officer that is corrupt should be brought to book.
Customs just gave themselves one trillion Naira revenue target, with the fall in import, do you think it I possible?
They are government and when they tell us something we should believe it is achievable. We are all Nigerians and if government give them one trillion they know the capability and capacity of Customs and the CG should know how they will produce one trillion.
I will not sit here and say it’s not possible am a Nigerian so let them produce one trillion if it is possible since it is target given to them am I going to tell them is not visible no, am not a Customs officer but a licensed Customs agent and I ensure that an importer pay complete duty when he import to meet customs revenue and I forward that to the government but importation Is low and I don’t think there is bulk cargo where they make a lot of money.
Customs make their money not from container but from bulk cargoes but we can see that no ship berthing rice, cement and the rest but whether they will make their money from export because there are more export in Tincan if government gave them one trillion and they say it is visible by accepting it, so be it am not to speak for customs because an not a Customs officer.
The NAGAFF Anti-Corruption crusade was to blackmail the customs, how true?
The headquarters keyed into the anti corruption mantra of the President and if we have any information on corrupt customs officers, there is nothing wrong in the headquarters to pass that information to the necessary authority because we are part of this country.
NAGAFF that I belong to headed by Chief Eugene Nweke and Boniface Aniebonam as the founder cannot witchunt anyone, they cannot accuse people wrongly and they only que into anti corruption Mantra of the President and if there is information that will be vital to the government they have the right to pass on the information no witch hunting of anyone.
Is the anti corruption fight is a way to check Customs excesses?
One or two officers might erred and they want to bring them to book so it is not about checking excesses of Customs.
What are the challenges you have with terminal operators and shipping lines?
Shipping companies are obligated to refund container deposit as at when due but as I speak with you, a container I returned to CMA, up till now, they have not paid me my money. Also, Hullblyt did the same and I wrote to them officially that from my investigation I learnt that they are not refunding agents by one as at when due and that they find a way to make sure they eat the money, I have a letter that I wrote to Hullblypt and I told him that I used my company as an example that what people are complaining about is true that you’ve people are not paying containers deposit back to agents as at when due because.
they are expected to pay back between on o two weeks but they will hold it for more than one month or two months
What are the excuses?
They have no excuse because this is a contract and for any excuse they giv is not acceptable to anyone. Only that people are constrained to mak up their point because they make live unbearable for agents. We hav serious issues with Shipping companies because they are not complying with ethic, Shippers Council came to collect Data the other time and before we know it, they have copted it into the debit note I think government have to look at the activities of shipping companies. Non of them owns a property, they don’t invest in this country they have no interest of this country at heart, they are all on a hired houses, they should invest because they make millions of dollars from here.
Terminals operators charge agents on public holiday and weekends, how true?
There was a time we were on strike in Apapa. Why did we have the strike for three weeks about APM Terminals and what we agreed on MoU are not implemented. They are multinationals who have big Nigerians behind them. That week that we had strike, the company’s MD with the Chairman went to see the former president, Goodluck Jonathan. Whatever w have and say go in deaf ear.
But we have a new government in place?
Yes, we are monitoring, w know we have a new government in place that is doing everything lot of things. You can see that we are not saying anything we want to get our fact right and we lbo the anti corruption crusade is a satellite when they get to th port, we will give them the report.
Should we expect to see agents under one voice writing President Buhari on excesses of terminals operators/Shipping charges?
Definitely, agents will come to the rallying point inother to make a headway we are coming to that and I kno by ty grace of God we will make an input.
What is the way forward?
Now, we will keep our hand crossed and see what w can do not to burn our finger, we will see at we will do to go out o this menace because this is a menace that has affected our industry.