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Freight forwarders, clearing agents paralyses ports operations over e-invoicing

Clearing agents and freight forwarders operating at both Tin-Can Island and the Ports & Terminal Multipurpose Limited on Monday withdrawn their services from the two ports, thereby paralysing operations of the nation’s seaports.

The agents, who are protesting the introduction of e-invoicing for all imports and exports by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), 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 CBN had in a circular to banks and the general public announced the introduction of e-invoicing for all imports and exports in the country, effective February 1, 2022.

But freight forwarders operating at both the Tin-Can Island and PTM are not comfortable with the new system and last week gave the port authority 72 hours to address the technical glitches facing the newly introduced e-valuation system or face industrial action.

Subsequentl upon the expiry of the ultimatum, the aggrieved freight forwarders on Monday commenced the withdrawal of their services till further notice.

According to the Assistant Secretary, PTML Chapter of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, Sunny Ugorji, the agents were not against the platform but the implementation process.

Ugorji said the implementation showed the officers of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) had increased the duties on imported cars without the notice of the agents.

“We only withdrew our services because of the e-valuation, there is no work; we have withdrawn our services until they correct the e-valuation system.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.

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“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 N3 million. 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.

“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,” Ugorji.

Also, 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.

“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,” he said.

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