The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Services (NCS), Dikko Inde Abdullahi, yesterday directed the closure of two cargo warehouses belonging to the Skyways Aviation Handling Company Limited ( SAHCOL) and the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO Aviance) Plc for what he described as the failure of the two companies to explain why goods were taken out of the warehouses without proper documentation.
Customs also said the two organisations had consistently failed to produce customs release documentation and evidence of payment of import duty and other statutory charges.
The closure according to the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Airport Command of the NCS, Mrs Thelma Williams, was a follow up to series of meetings between the Customs Area Comptroller, Mohammed Dahiru Umar, with all stakeholders, including cargo agents and freight forwarders association.
She said the airport command of customs acted on the approval of the comptroller general in line with the statutory powers conferred on the NCS as provided under sections 145(1) (b) and 5 of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) CAP C45 LFN 2004, (as amended) and other extant regulations.
Williams cited other reasons for the closure of the warehouses to include non-compliance with customs procedure and the attendant loss of revenue accruable to the federal government of Nigeria as well as possible threat national security implications.
“The refusal of the companies to comply with the rules has created conducive working environment in these warehouses which militates against officers and men of the command discharging their statutory duties effectively.
She said the area command had no other option than to invoke the provisions of Sections 88,96, and 98 (4) (b) of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) CAP C45 LFN 2004 (as amended) and other extant regulations and seal up the warehouses to ensure and enforce compliance to these rules
Reacting to the closure, the Head of Corporate Communications of NAHCO Aviance, Adesanya Onayoade, confirmed the shutting down of the warehouses but said it was to “to enable a sanitisation exercise that will ultimately improve service delivery and block all revenue leakage.”
According to him, "The management of NAHCO is already in consultations to ensure among others that: Sterile areas in the warehouse are restricted to unauthorised people; that only licensed customs agents with access cards would be allowed in the warehouse; that all forms of touting are eliminated around the NAHCO cargo complex and that men of the customs would be given all support to ensure full compliance with cargo clearing process in the warehouse
“All accredited government agencies are given adequate support to ensure security and safety.
"We assure all stakeholders that by the time the warehouse is reopened, there will be seamless service delivery, adequate security and less crowd and full compliance with payment of duties by licensed customs agents.”
Also spokesman of SAHCOL, Basil Agboarumi, said: “There is no doubt that we are custodians of the warehouse, but no goods can move out of our warehouse without the approval of the customs. However, meetings and discussions are going on between the handling companies, custom licensed agents and the customs to find solution to this.”