Truckers under the aegis of Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) have threatened to withdraw their services over incessant seizures of vehicles by operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
The truckers lamented that the seizure and possible auctioning of their trucks by the NCS has led to untold hardships for haulage operators in the maritime industry, describing the seizures as unjust.
A statement signed by the President and secretary of the body, Chief Yemi Ogungbemi and Alhaji Sanni Muhammed, respectively queried management of the Customs over failure to arrest ships that import illicit goods to Nigeria for complicity.
”Does Customs seal the terminals that receive contraband and dangerous consignments in their yards for complicity in storing illicit consignments?”,
The truck owners said the Nigerian Customs at different fora made haulage operators to understand that the law stipulates they arrest the means of conveyance.
“If that is the reason, why not arrest ships that import containers with contraband goods to Nigeria. Are vessels no longer means of conveyance?”
AMATO described such laws obsolete, saying that it has become injurious to truckers’ means of livelihood.
The AMATO executives further stated that truckers can no longer withstand what they call the unfortunate circumstances of being used as scapegoat for offenses perpetuated by unscrupulous importers.
“The seizure and possible auction of our trucks by the Nigerian Customs Service is causing us untold hardships as truckers, and for a very long time, we have been passing through this injustice in the hands of Nigerian Customs Service.
“Truckers are mere commercial transporters of goods. We are only invited by agents to come and carry goods to and from the ports after Customs might have examined and approved the release of goods in containers to Importers and agents.
“But unfortunately, after loading the containers that are duly examined and released by Customs on our trucks, they would waylay the trucks on the road, seize and detain our trucks in their yards together with containers with question marks”, they said.
Further questioning the rationale for the seizures, AMATO queried why they are the victims when they are not involved in physical examination of goods in the ports together with Customs, Police, Directorate of State Security (DSS), Nigeria Drug Law Enforecement Agency (NDLEA), etc. to see what they carry.
“Does it sound just for Customs officers and other government agencies that jointly examined and approved the exit of contraband and other dangerous goods in the ports to be holding the trucker responsible for their fault and negligence?
“Is it the commercial trucker that is short-paying government’s import duty on goods or the Importers and their Agents?
“If the answer to the above questions are ‘No’, we are calling on Nigerian Customs Service to release all our trucks detained in their yards or we withdraw our services nationwide in protest against the unjust seizure of our trucks.
“Our members are facing agonizing economic hardships. Their means of livelihood are being seized by the Nigerian Customs for the offense committed by Importers and their dubious collaborating Agents.
“Nigerian Customs should please release our trucks and stop using the truckers as scapegoat.
“Recently, some containers were found to contain tramadol, arms and ammunition. If the trucker knows that he is to carry container loaded with explosives that can destroy him and the truck, or the contraband drug that would equally put him in trouble, he will not carry it.
“Thus, where is the justification for seizing our truck?
“We appreciate the previous Management of Customs authority, in that they reasoned with complaints and issued out circular that enables us to retrieve our seized trucks through application.
“But the present Management of Customs wrote against the Circular. All our efforts and entreaties to the present management of the Customs to revalidate the circular to enable us secure the release of our trucks have proved abortive.
“Hence our plan to settle out grievance with the customs authority through the eloquence of withdrawal of services if our trucks are not released by the Customs”, AMATO concluded.
By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos
15.5% MPR Increase’ll Control Inflation – CBN
The Central Bank of Nigeria
(CBN) says its Monetary Policy Committee’s decision to increase Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) is to control rising inflation.
CBN’s Director, Monetary Policy Department, Hassan Mahmoud, stated this, midweek, at a post-MPC briefing tagged “Unveiling Facts behind the Figures’’.
Recall that the MPC, in its 287th meeting on Tuesday, had increased the MPR by 150 basis points, from 14 per cent to 15.5 per cent.
The MPR is the baseline interest rate in an economy on which other interest rates within that economy are built on.
CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, had explained that the decision was informed by persistent rise in inflation rate and fragile economic growth.
Mahmud had explained further that the MPC got to a point where stringent measures have to be taken to control inflation.
He said the committee took cognisance of global and local economic issues in arriving at its policy decisions.
“We raised the MPR because it is necessary to do so. The quantity of money in the system was too much for the economy to absorb”, he said.
He continued that monetary policy tools were meant to deal with short term risks, adding that the idea was to make the cost of funds expensive to drive down inflation.
According to Mahmud, the stimuluses that governments across the world provided for their citizens during COVID-19 increased the ability of people to spend, thereby, creating challenges with global supply.
“A lot of households and small businesses were injected with stimuluses; the U.S did two trillion dollars, Nigeria did about five trillion Naira, these increased the ability of people to spend.
“But the supply side could not meet up with the demand because that volume of injection was far more than the regular intake for those economies, this made prices to go up,’’ he said.
He also blamed the Russian-Ukraine war, as well as the resurgence of COVID-19 in China as responsible for rise in global inflationary trend.
“That region accounts for more than 50 per cent of global commodity supply and 38 per cent of global oil and gas supply.
“The war resulted to some shortages which made prices to go up. Then the COVID-19 lockdown in China. The country is the largest importer of commodities across the globe,’’ he said.
Speaking on the various economic intervention initiatives by the apex bank and the prospect of recouping the funds, the Director, Development Finance Department, Dr Yusuf Yila, said about nine trillion Naira had been invested in the various development finance interventions.
He, however, said all the monies would be recovered.
According to Yila, N9.3 trillion has been invested in various development finance interventions, out of which N3.7 trillion has been repaid.
“Most of the loans are still under moratorium, especially those in manufacturing. Manufacturing forms the largest part of our portfolio, about 31 per cent,’’ he said.
He said one of the best-performing interventions was the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme, where out of the N800 billion that was lent out, about N700 billion had been repaid.
Yila said that through the flagship agriculture intervention scheme, the Anchor Borrowers Programme, one trillion Naira had been lent out to smallholder farmers, while about N400 billion has so far been recovered.
According to him, the department will restrict intervention to critical sectors like the SMEs and the electricity sector for now.
Speaking on the depreciation of the Naira, the Director, Trade and Exchange Department, Mrs Ozoemena Nnaji, said the apex bank was taking steps to firm up the currency.
Nnaji said that demand for foreign exchange outstripped supply currency, adding that the CBN was doing a lot to mop up supply.
“One of the steps is the Naira for dollar remittance drive, which has resulted to a huge increase in diaspora remittances.
“There is also the RT200 bringing in forex. Repatriation has gone up from 20 million dollars in the first quarter to about 600 million dollars in the second quarter.
“In this third quarter we are looking at more than one billion dollars of repatriated inflows,’’ she said.
FG Probes IOCs’ Oil Exploration, Production
The Federal Government, has commenced a probe of the exploration and production activities of international and local oil companies as part of measures to address the massive oil theft in Nigeria.
It announced this through its Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), saying it would do the needful to challenge the narrative and halt further degeneration by ensuring transparency in hydrocarbon accounting.
“One of the steps, in line with its (NUPRC) technical and regulatory powers, is to probe into the operational and commercial activities of exploration and production companies operating within the country,” the commission’s Chief Executive, Gbenga Komolafe, stated in a statement he personally signed.
He noted that this was “to ascertain the level of compliance with the terms and conditions in their (oil firms’) operational contracts, and the challenges impeding expected deliveries.
“The Commission will particularly be interested in the mode of operation of the companies in relation to the approvals as per their operational licences, the level of conformity with the technical provisions and production terms, their level of investments to enhance capacity utilisation, and the challenges they are facing, especially those contributing to the current unacceptable situation.
“Beginning from Wednesday, September 28, the Commission will be engaging all the exploration and production companies individually to get to the root of the current situation as it believes strongly that there might be more fundamental issues in the industry affecting expected output and deliveries beyond the much touted issue of crude theft”.
Komolafe said already, invitations had been extended to all the operators for engagement during which they would be expected to present their work programme performances, acreage status and divestment plans (if any).
They would also present their field development plan, implementation status, upstream investment in the last five years, exploration activities including geophysical acquisition/processing/reprocessing, leads and prospects maturation plans; and exploratory wells drilled in the last five years.
NUPRC further stated that during the engagements, the companies would be required to present their reserve status, life index, current reserves replacement ratio and reserves growth strategy.
MWUN Threatens Service Withdrawal Over Dilapidated Quays
The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has threatened to withdraw their services from the nation’s seaport if the issues of dilapidated quays are not addressed urgently.
This is coming barely weeks after the Minister of Transportation, Muazu Sambo, inspected the dilapidated portion of the Tin Can Island quay apron in company of some heads of maritime agencies.
Addressing journalists at a joint press conference organised by MWUN and the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), the President-General of MWUN, Adewale Adeyanju, said the dilapidated state of the quay walls was putting the lives of workers at the affected terminals at risk.
He called on the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to ensure that necessary measures were put in place to fix the dilapidated infrastructure, saying the union could no longer allow the situation to deteriorate further before protesting.
“It is unfortunate that this kind of thing is happening. If you go to Port Harcourt or Warri port, we are having the same problem.
So, we are using this medium to appeal to the management of NPA to make sure that all the terminal operators do the right thing.
“They can sanction those who refuse to make their terminals safe for the workers. Otherwise, we might withdraw the services of our members as a result of that. The lives of the workers are no longer safe and injury to one is injury to all”, he said.
Adeyanju stated further that the collaboration between MWUN and NARTO would also ensure improved welfare for truck drivers and reduce cases of extortion along the port access roads.
He also said the collaboration would ensure free flow of traffic to ease cargo and vehicular movement in and out of the ports.
According to him, the partnership would not involve collection of toll along the port access roads as both parties had resolved to key into the electronic call-up system project of NPA.
“The essence of this collaboration is to support a good programme birthed by NPA – ETO. We are also going to work with other stakeholders in the port so that we can have free flow of traffic on the road.
“I am also using this opportunity to send a signal to our members that we should not go against the Memorandum of Understanding because it is binding on both parties.
“We must also ensure discipline and eschew thuggery and extortion along the port access roads”, he stated.
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