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Customs Area Comptroller Accuses Ground Handling Staff Of Aiding, Abetting Cargo Theft At Lagos Airport

The staff of ground handling companies at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos have been accused of conniving with customs agents at the airport to steal cargo at the tarmac of the airport.

The staff of ground handling companies at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos have been accused of conniving with customs agents at the airport to steal cargo at the tarmac of the airport. 

The staff was said to work actively with some of the customs agents by diverting some cargo meant for clearance by officials of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), thereby denying the government of due revenues.

Speaking today at the Lagos Airport, Mrs. Jayne Shoboiki, the new Customs Area Comptroller, Lagos Airport Command said that her office had confronted the ground handling agents at the airport with proof to her claim without any tangible excuse from them. 

There are two ground handling companies in the sector; Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) and the Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL).

She lamented that stealing of cargo from the sheds of the ground handling companies was depriving the government revenues especially when the importer had paid the agents appropriate clearance fees. 

She threatened that the license of any customs agents caught stealing cargo from the sheds would be revoked while the importer would also be barred from importing goods into the country. 

She explained that within a week of her redeployment to the command, she had noticed some loopholes in the system, which she intended to block, adding that the command would no longer tolerate any act of indiscipline by any of the agents and other stakeholders in the system.

She maintained that the attitude of some of the staff had been a major challenge to the command in the past, but insisted such attitudes would be relegated to the background.

She said: “We seem to have a lot of challenges with the ground handling staff at this airport especially at the tarmac. They are not only conniving with the agents but are also aiding and abetting in stealing of cargo at the tarmac. One of the grounds handling agents visited me yesterday (Wednesday) and when I came out with a lot of evidence, they didn’t know what to say.

“I see no reason why we should steal cargo at the shed. The importer has given the agent the appropriate money for the clearance of the cargo, but some of the agents in connivance with some of the ground handling staff still go ahead to steal cargo. All that will stop. Any agent that is caught stealing cargo, his license would be seized. Also, agents should not collect contraband products from importers."

“I am not here to blame anyone, but to ensure that we make adjustments. I am here for revenue collection at the command. We need to have an attitudinal change in whatever we do. I am not going to compromise my revenue collection or allow anyone to constitute an impediment to that change. I will adopt a carrot and stick approach and I will not hesitate to use the stick when the need arises.”

In his comment, Mr. Ahmed Bashir Gulmah, Head, Corporate Services, Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc, expressed surprise at the allegation if theft leveled at some of the staff of the ground handling companies. 

Gulmah said that NAHCO as an organization had put in systems to checkmate any nefarious activities by its clients and staff.

He, however, agreed that there was no perfect system anywhere in the world, but assured that NAHCO would continue to cooperate with the Customs and other stakeholders in the industry.

She said: “I am actually taken aback with some of the allegations you just made. No system is perfect, but our commitment is that we will ensure compliance, improve on our structures and cooperate with your men on the field."

“We will also ensure that government gets what is due to them and we too will generate our own revenues."