Clearing agents ground port operations, begin indefinite strike over CBN e-valuation
Ports operations at both Tin-Can Island and the Ports & Terminal Multipurpose Limited may have been grounded on Monday, following the commencement of the withdrawal of services by agents and freight forwarders operating at the two ports.
The agents also threatened to extend the industrial action to all the ports in Lagos State, including Apapa, and Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, if their requests are not granted.
The Central Bank of Nigeria had in a circular to all authorised dealers and the general public announced the introduction of e-invoicing for all imports and exports in the country, effective February 1, 2022.
However, freight forwarders operating at both the Tin-Can Island and PTML last week gave the authority 72 hours to address the technical glitches facing the newly introduced e-valuation system or face industrial action.
In what appears like a follow-up to their earlier threat, the aggrieved freight forwarders on Monday commenced the withdrawal of their services till further notice.
Speaking to our correspondent on Monday, the Assistant Secretary, PTML Chapter of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, Sunny Ugorji, said the agents were not against the platform but the implementation process.
Ugorji, said the implementation showed the officers of the Nigerian Customs Service had increased the duties on imported cars without the notice of the agents.
He said, “We only withdrew our services because of the e-valuation, there is no work; we have withdrawn our services until they correct the e-valuation system. We are not against e-valuation, what we are against is the implementation of the platform. The implementation is indicating that the Nigeria Customs Service has increased duties without informing us. I don’t see why when they say e-valuation; it simply means we are going to observe port operations with no much interface which is good”
“For instance, a vehicle of 2011 that used to be cleared around N600, 000 now costs about N3m. So, we don’t know where to start and we want the people to know that the Customs are pushing us out of work. That is why most people here are withdrawing their services until the Customs look into it and address the issue of illegal notice”
He added, “We have succeeded in withdrawing our services both at the PTML Command and Tin-Can. By tomorrow (Tuesday) we are going to Apapa. On Wednesday, we are going to KLT to make sure we all speak with one voice.”
Corroborating Ugorji, the Chairman of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, PTML chapter, George Okafor, said, “We just withdrew our services; all the agents have withdrawn their services at PTML. Our attention was only at PTML but it has now extended to Tin-Can. We are on it until the government speaks to us. We gave the Customs Controller-General 72 hours to talk to us but until now, he hasn’t done that. So we are withdrawing our services until the Customs talk to us.”
The Public Relations Officer, PTML Command, NCS, Muhammad Yakubu, confirmed the withdrawal of service, adding the command was only enforcing the e-valuation policy of the government.
He said, “They have been on strike since we came to the office. I keep on telling them that this thing is beyond us (Customs), it is a Federal Government policy and we are just here to implement the policy. They should talk to the Federal Government.”
The PRO, Tin-Can Island Command, NCS, Uche Ejesieme, advised the protesters to act within the ambit of the laws.
“The mild protest is still lingering, don’t forget that they started with PTML and escalated it to TinCan; and it is still escalating. But the good news is that it is a very peaceful protest. They are trying to make an awareness protest to express their grievances with the e-valuation policy of the NCS.”