The recent partnership accord struck between the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) and Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) will boost the operations of the 100% Compliance Team set up to tackle some infractions in goods clearing at the ports.
This was the position of the Team’s National Coordinator, Alhaji Ibrahim Tanko when he spoke at a media briefing.
Tanko took the stance on Wednesday in Apapa, Lagos, in the face of an attack by the Zonal Coordinator, West of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Sir John Ofobuike, who recently alleged that the Team was a weapon of blackmail by NAGAFF against the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS)
He denied the allegation of harassment, intimidation and blackmail of customs officers on duty leveled against his outfit by Ofobuike.
Ofobuike had in a petition dated 8th December, 2020 and addressed to the Customs Area Controller of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Apapa Area 1Command, Comptroller Abba Kura alleged that Customs officers were being harassed and intimidated by Tanko and the NAGAFF Compliance Team.
“A lot of officers in your command are groaning under the weight of constant demand for job gratification, intimidation, harassment and name dropping by Mr. Ibrahim Tanko and his purported 100% Compliance Team from NAGAFF”, Ofobuike alleged.
He also added, “You may have been aware of a publication in one of the maritime print media blackmailing one of your officers in AML Bonded Terminal for bluntly refusing to ‘play ball’ to the said 100% Compliance Team led by Alh. Tanko Ibrahim.”
“They have been issuing threats to him for his astuteness in discharging his duty. Same goes to your officers in Mid-Maritime Bonded Terminal as well as Denca Bonded Terminal and other terminals who refused to ‘play ball’ with them. They are equally being intimidated and hounded for approaching their duties with forthrightness.
Reacting yesterday however, Tanko denied the allegations stating that the last time the team visited the three bonded terminals during its tours, it did it in company of media representatives, adding that he did not go there alone.
Tanko further explained that since that time, he had never gone there again by himself, even as he denied intimidating or extorting any customs officer as alleged by the petitioner.
He said, “I haven’t intimidated, extorted or pressured any customs officer. How can an armless person like me, a civilian, harass an armed customs officer? How will somebody who has no gun harass somebody with gun? How will somebody with no power of arrest intimidate or harass customs officer who has power of arrest and has gun as well? He (Ofobuike) could have been patient enough to wait to see our mistake before writing the petition but because he was anxious, maybe, to hurt us or to cause confusion between the Compliance Team and the Customs management; so he decided to write this.”
Tanko stressed that since the establishment of the 100% Compliance Team, they had never confronted or attacked any customs officer or any government agency.
“What we are doing is sensitization between the importers and our members, telling them the benefits of doing the right thing. We have not accused any customs officer of corruption or any other wrong doing. If there is any such development, let the person so attacked, harassed or intimidated come out and say so”, he challenged.
The National Coordinator while pointing out that he had nothing against Ofobuike as a person, however, explained that he (Ofobuike) was under suspension in ANLCA presently and that the leadership of the association was preparing to expel him from the group.
“I want you to understand that the relationship between ANLCA and NAGAFF is still intact. Just few days ago, ANLCA formed its compliance team and they asked us to work with them and by January, we are going to call them for a meeting to see if we are going to reframe our materials in order to make it a joint compliance team between ANLCA and NAGAFF. We are working towards that,” he added.