Silence As Customs Seals ‘illegal’ Bonded Terminal
THE continued silence over the sealing of an empty container stacking space at Kirikiri Phase ll area of Lagos, allegedly converted to a “bonded terminal” is generating concerns among stakeholders in the maritime sector.
The illegal bonding terminal, uncovered and sealed by operatives of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) last week, was said to be operating in contravention of laid down rules as the space was not designated for such purpose.
As investigations are said to be ongoing into the incident, a code of silence has continued to pervade the NCS. When contacted on the status of the terminal and cargoes suspected to be in it, Customs Public Relations Officer at the Zonal office, Ngozi Okwara, asked The Nation to call back.
Also at the KLT Command, whose precinct the “bonded terminal” is located, the silence on the matter remains. High-ranking officers in the command declined comment on the matter.
At the peak of the operation of this facility, some users of the facility, who preferred anonymity, disclosed that cargo-laden containers were being processed for clearance for them there. They claimed not to have known that it was operating in contravention of the laid down rules for setting up a bonded terminal. The illegal bonded terminal had attracted container-laden trucks moving cargoes in and out with presence of Customs officers, who were said not to be from Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT) Command, where the activities took place.
A freight forwarder, who identified himself simply as Fidelis Onyebuchi, described the operation of the terminal as an act of impunity that could result in clearing unlawful cargoes into the country and cause serious evasion of duty payment.
According to him, the closure of the terminal was a bold step in the right direction because there is nowhere the warehouse, which was meant for keeping empty containers by a firm, Clarion Shipping, was assigned the responsibility of operating as a bonded terminal.
“I am happy it was sealed. The Comptroller-General of Customs acted swiftly and rightly too by stopping their operation. We saw Customs officers locking up the place and everyone of us became proud of the service as it confirms his zero tolerance for corruption,” he said.
Subsequent visits to the place at the weekend showed it remained under lock and key. As at the time of going to press, it remained under locked with some trucks that wanted to use it parked outside.
Stakeholders in the sector reckon that the operations of the bonded warehouse known as Clarion Terminal, established within the premises of KLT Command, is capable of creating misinformation and wrong suspicion on the basis of questionable releases that might rebound on the area command.
Source: The Nation Friday 26th June 2020