Truck owners operating from the nation’s ports corridor have decried the increasing number of detained haulage vehicles by operatives Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) within the Lagos axis.
The haulage operators disclosed that the number of detained trucks by customs has risen from 100 to about 200 in the last two years.
Recall that the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) at various fora in the last five years raised concerns over the incessant detention of trucks by official of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) .
Speaking in Lagos at a Town Hall meeting put together by freight forwarding associations, President of AMATO, Chief Remi Ogungbemi lamented that truck owners were being used as scapegoat for offenses allegedly committed by shippers and their collaborating agents .
Ogungbemi reiterated that the livelihood of truckers are in jeopardy because most of them are living in penury and some languishing in debts.
The president also alleged that personnel of the service has begun illegal auctions of their trucks despite ongoing negotiations with relevant authorities for releasing purposes.
According to him, freight agents and truck owners should work harmoniously to resolve the challenges to retrieve trucks under the custody of customs adding that the anomalies has continued to work against smooth cargo clearance from the ports.
On cargo clearance challenges as it’s affecting the truckers, Ogungbemi lamented that”Without iota of doubt, I see this occasion as a moment of truth in which we must tell ourselves the truth and nothing but the bitter truth.
“There has been a particular devil that has been destroying trucking business since time immemorial and this devilish devil am referring to is always alive because of the unscrupulous elements amongst the importers and their collaborating agents,who deliberately refusing to declare honestly to the Nigeria customs, the exact goods the are either importing or exporting and which forms the reason why the customs keep arresting and impounding even in most cases auctioning out trucks on offenses that are not committed by we truckers.
“This means to say that we are being used as scapegoat for the offenses committed by importers and their collaborating agents. As I speak, we have close to 200 of our members trucks that are their means of livelihood under the custody of customs.
“The irony of it is that both the importers and agents always abandoned the truck and the goods and disappear, leaving the owners of the trucks to be languishing in debt ,hunger and poverty ,he said.
Continuing, Ogungbemi called on shippers and agents to engage haulage operators genuine for safety purpose of the cargo and trucks even as he called on freight forwarders not to cut corners or abet importers and exporters in falsifying declaration but rather ensure that they pay accurate duty.
While soliciting support from the freight forwarders on the need to tackle the challenges bedevilling cargo clearance from the seaports , the AMATO boss called on importer to make honest declaration of their consignments to the customs and other relevant government agencies noting that hiring of trucks by the freight agents should endeavour to engage the rightly owner as part of measures to avoid stories that touch the heart.
He affirmed that”Clearing agents or whosoever is hiring trucks should endeavour to see and ascertain the standard of truck before engagement for safety reasons.
“The clearing agents or whosoever is hiring trucks should let the drivers of the truck know the actual weight of the container or general cargo”.
By Roland Ekama