Importers, Customs clearing agents and other ports operators have continued to lament the high cost of doing business in the ports and the cumbersome clearing process they are made to go through.
Their grouse has to do with the high Wharf landing cost as well as the exploitation they face in the hands of the Lagos State Wharf Landing Fees Collecting Authority (LSWLFCA).
The victims say the LSWLFCA make them pay between N200 for cars and N500 for SUVs without issuing them receipts for money collected.
They add that after the vehicle leaves after the payment, the officials call their task force operations team to point at the vehicle, following which a chase ensues.
According to victims, the task force vehicle outrun and double cross their target, and the driver is forced at gun point and taken to the office of the agency at Marine Road, Apapa, where they are further extorted.
The victims say at the office, they are handed a plain sheet of paper encapsulating penalty for the supposed violation of wharf landing fee law.
While the authority charges a penalty of N100, 000.00 for individual offender, it charges corporate offenders the sum of N500, 000.00 payable to the aurhority’s Access Bank account.
Recounting his ordeals, one of the victims, Emma Omefine, said field officials of the authority don’t always give receipt after payment.
“Most time I pass, they don’t give me receipt after I pay their money, so I don’t really bother. I just go my way.
But today is the first time they would seizing my vehicle. What happened was that after I paid the N500 and the guy waved me to go, I was on my way when their vehicle just came from nowhere and double-crossed me.
They said I should bring my receipt but I told them I was not given a receipt. They said I should reverse and we started arguing, but when their policemen were carrying their guns anyhow, I followed them to their office.”
Omefine added that upon taking custody of his vehicle at the premises of the LSWLFCA, the officials issued him a penalty of N100, 000 prescribed in plain non official letter headed paper, to be paid into the authority’s Access Bank account number 0700562033.
Another supposed offender who gave his name simply as Francis said he is an agent, and two of his vehicles, a Jeep and a car, were impounded by the authority.
He said he paid N800 and left, only to be stopped shortly after by policemen attached to the authority, who asked him for bribe. He said when he refused, they asked him to produce the receipt of the payment of his fee.
Francis said effort to get them to confirm with the official he had paid to, proved abortive and they forcefully seized his car.
“I made a payment of N800 to them, N500 for the Jeep and N300 for the car and I left. But immediately we left the place, about a pole interval, their policeman stopped me and asked me to give him something. I told him I had already and did not have any money left on me as I had slept at the port the previous night.
Immediately I said that, one of the policemen entered my vehicle and demanded for receipt. I told him I was not given a receipt, and he said I should move the car to their office. I told him we should walk back for him to ask the man who collected money from me, but he refused and started dragging with me, so I went with them.
I have been here since yesterday and they are asking me to pay N200, 000. At first, they said I should call the owner of the vehicles but when I refused, they gave me a blank paper with the account number of their bank.”
It was also found out that anyone who refused to pay the fine is charged N10,000 as demurrage per vehicle for every night the vehicle spends in the office.
However, the LSWLFCA Public Relations Officer, Mike Opute, refuted the claims by the agents and denied any form of exploitation by his men, saying the penalty charged is for violation of the Lagos State Government Law.
“If they paid, they will be given receipts, but some of them just stretch N200 or N300 to our men and run away. We did not make the law; it was made by the Lagos State Assembly,” Opute said when he was contacted.