‘Don’t involve clearing agents in fraudulent importers’ prosecution’

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Anna Okon

Clearing agents and freight forwarders have kicked against the practice of being prosecuted along with importers found to have made false declaration.

The National Coordinator, Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Importers Exporters Coalition, Chief Osita Patrick, disclosed this in an exclusive interview with our correspondent on Wednesday.

He told our correspondent that the freight forwarders had concluded plans to approach the National Assembly and persuade members to enact a law that would shield clearing agents from partaking in the punishment or prosecution of fraudulent importers.

He said, “We want the National Assembly to pass a law to set any freight forwarder free from punishment or prosecution of importers who make false declaration of their cargo because we have been suffering a lot in this regard.

“Some importers are in the habit of giving agents false bill of lading. They give agents bill of lading to clear their cargo, when it goes for examination, it will be discovered that the container carries something different from what is written on the bill of lading.The moment this happens, the first culprit is usually the agent who will be promptly arrested by the Customs.”

Patrick maintained that agents were not supposed to be held liable for such false declaration since they had no way of knowing or confirming what was inside the container they had been contracted to clear.

He said, “There is no way of checking the container.  It is only during examination by the Customs that the content of the container is revealed and that is the last stage of the clearing process. There is no room for knowing what is inside the container.”

In January, men of the Nigeria Customs Service impounded a container laden with 661 pump action rifles.

According to the Comptroller General of the NCS, Col. Hameed Ali, (retd.), the importer had falsely declared the consignment as furniture.

A clearing agent, Mahmud Hassan, was arrested in connection with the seizure, alongside the importer, Oscan Okafor, and another young man, Sadique Mustapha, who accompanied the consignment to its destination.

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