The Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) has threatened to withdraw its services from the port over plans by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to auction trucks seized for conveying contraband items.
Its Chairman, Remi Ogungbemi, who spoke shortly after a meeting with the Service’s Zonal Coordinator in charge of Zone ‘A’, Assistant Comptroller-General (ACG) Kaycee Ekekezie, in Lagos, urged the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) to prevail on the Customs to stop the planned auction.
Accusing importers and clearing agents of making false declaration in their documentation, Ogungbemi said he was surprised that Customs decided to re-introduce the auctioning of seized trucks despite that truckers were not privy to the content of the containers they carry on behalf of importers and agents.
“I am surprised that instead of Customs just seizing the contraband goods and give us our trucks, they have started auctioning our trucks. They were doing this before about 20 years ago but later stopped and issued us a circular that henceforth, they would be releasing our trucks to us. So we truckers are warming up for strike and we want the authorities to intervene, otherwise we will withdraw our services in protest against the illicit activities of importers, exporters and their agents who will not tell the Customs exactly what is inside the container and that form the reason why Customs is impounding and auctioning our trucks,” he said.
Though he agreed that the law was clear that “any contraband seized should be seized together with the means of conveyance,” he argued that some of the containers were examined by Customs at the port before they were released, while truckers were not part of the examiners, neither were they privy to the document used in clearing the containers.
He, however, said the Customs Zonal Coordinator had promised to table the matter before the Comptroller-General and convene a meeting between the truckers, clearing agents, importers and exporters.