There is palpable tension among clearing agents operating at the Apapa seaport as customs officers at the Apapa Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) as test positive to Coronavirus.
Clearing agents who expressed concern of fear of spreading the pandemic however called on the service to invoke relevant sections of the Customs Excise and Management Act (CEMA) in other to curb community spread of the virus.
According to the Association of Nigerian Licenced Customs Agents (ANLCA), customs management should invoke the ‘bill of Sight’ at various commands of the service.
Recall that Apapa port is the largest seaport in Nigeria with five terminals that comprised Container, bulk and general cargo terminal.
The Public Relations Officer of Apapa port, Nkiru Nwala however confirmed that some officers of the command contracted the virus.
Speaking, the President National Council of Managing Director of Licenced Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero called for redesigning of port operation to meet the current reality.
According to him, Customs officers must be commended for coming to their duty post during the pandemic but all the ports whether Apapa of Tin-Can island or Onne must be redesigned for present day reality.
“We have raised this issue with the presidency because the problem is a holistic problem that has to do with the whole port system. The men who contracted the virus was as a result of no spacing. And when you look at the port, it is not only Apapa port, it is everywhere. You go to Tin Can, you have the same problem.
“This time is an emergency time, there is a need for the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA), Customs, Licenced Customs agents to be able to sit back and look at how the port can be redesigned.
A port system is not a system whereby Apapa port has a different thing. You have this thing at Tin Can as well. But Apapa port might have got the virus as a result of a traveller who has come there or someone who is exposed to it.
When you go round to the whole port, you have the same system all over the place. Agents are exposed to the virus because of going to one place where people are clustering. For instance, if you go to the bank, you see people clustering, you go to the shipping companies, you see people clustering. You don’t blame anywhere not even Apapa port. This thing happened as a result of the way you have your bill of entry, there is a query and you want to go and attend to it. You don’t know if that man has it or exposed to it.
I don’t think those comments from agents are necessary. What we have to do is to look for how we can reorganize because the port has no coordinative center.
“All the ports are doing the same thing. If you go round the port, you see the agents are clustering. Everybody wants their consignment to leave the port and when you call any agents to come in, have a query or you want to go through the procedure, that is where you have this contact. Seriously, it is not only Apapa port, Tin Can has the same problem, unless, there is need for government attention whereby they need to re-strategize the whole thing.
The virus is not the problem of Apapa, it is the problem of the whole ports. Every port area has the same problem,” Amiwero said.
On his own, the Vice President, Association of Nigeria Licenced Customs Agents (ANLCA), Kayode Farinto called for invoking Customs Excise and Management Act (CEMA) to curb the spread of the virus
He said the bill of sight in CEMA) will curb the spread of Coronavirus in the maritime industry.
Farinto had warned that the failure of the service to invoke section 28 and 29 of the Customs Excise and Management Act which give Customs the power to invoke the ‘Bill of Sight’ spread the deadly Coronavirus pandemic.
He said the Bill of Sight will help reduce human contacts which may lead to the outspread of the pandemic in the maritime industry and the entire country at large.
According to him, “If there is an outbreak of Covid-19 in the maritime industry the NCS should be held responsible, we are in a period of war and we suggested that let us invoke sections 28 and 29 of the CEMA law which says that let us use Bill of Sight.
Speaking further on the officers that contracted the virus, the command PRO however said the incident has been in the past for the command.
She said, “All is the past now and all required protocols were done with the relevant agencies.
“That’s in the past now and stale, we give God the praise for the grace to serve our fatherland even in the most difficult times
Thanks for your support all the time,” Nwala said.
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