EFFORTS by the management of the Nigeria Customs Service, to get striking clearing agents back to work seem to have failed as the meeting between the two parties has ended in a deadlock.
The freight forwarders operating at both the Tin-Can Island as well as the Ports & Terminal Multipurpose Limited commands of the Customs had last week begun an indefinite strike following the expiration of a 72-hour ultimatum given to the Federal Government to review the electronic valuation system for imported vehicles and cargoes.
The government through the Central Bank of Nigeria had recently introduced e-valuation and e-invoicing policy for imported goods, using what is called Vehicle Identification Number for the valuation system
At the stakeholders meeting organised by the NCS with the clearing agents in attendance in Ikeja, Lagos, on Tuesday, the striking agents vowed not to restore their services until their demands are met by the government.
Addressing journalists after the meeting, the Controller General of Customs, Hammed Ali, who was represented at the event by the Assistant Controller General of Customs in charge of Zone A, Modupe Aremu, explained that Customs was going to modify the complaints of the clearing agents to arrive at a conclusive arrangement for the VIN initiative.
She said, “We are going to modify their complaints going forward. The modification will take care of the complaints of the clearing agents as regards VIN”
She also said that the meeting was more of a family meeting with the clearing agent.
“We talked and rubbed minds on a solution to this ongoing strike at the ports. The agents have actually been trained ahead of the implementation of the VIN valuation. That was why we were not expecting this kind of response from them when we began the VIN implementation”
Meanwhile reacting to the development, the Deputy National Secretary of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, Segun Musa, insisted the strike would remain until their demands were met.
He said, “What is on the ground is that we are waiting for the Customs. They have given us a time frame till Friday. So, on Friday we will be in a better position to say if the strike continues or not but as of today the status quo remains. So we are still waiting for Customs till Friday but for now, the strike action is still on”
“They (Customs) will go back and adjust their system to meet with our demands. We are not expecting anything less than that from the Customs. If our expectations are not met, we are not going to back down on the strike.”