April 10th, 2006 MEDIA REPORT #4

The Nigeria Customs Service has been accused of sabotage in the implementation of the Inland and Coastal Shipping Act, also called Cabotage Law, following its demands for 40 per cent duty payment on imported Cabotage vessels. Speaking with our correspondent in an exclusive interview on Tuesday, the President, Indigenous Ship Owners Association of Nigeria, and Managing Director, Morlap Group, Chief Isaac Jolapamo, said that the Customs had insisted on the collection of duty on some Cabotage vessels in his company’s fleet. In a letter addressed to the company and signed by the Customs Area Controller, Western Marine Command Apapa, Mr. Kolo Yisa, on June 17, 2005 the Customs had demanded for “Customs duty payment documents and temporary importation permits for vessels operating permits in Nigeria.” Specifically, the letter requested for “all documents regarding payment of Customs duty for home use or temporary importation,” to be submitted to the office within one week as it affected MT Juwon and MT Molap Trader, two vessels belonging to the Morlap Group.

The letter warned that failure to comply with the directive might “result to detention or prosecution:” even as sources hinted that a similar measure was being adopted in the eastern ports by Customs operatives. Jolapamo said. “Most of the other agencies, apart from the National Maritime Authoritym which were supposed to encourage indigenous hip owners in the implementation of the cabataga regime, are either not prepared for the law or are not willing to let it work,” he said. The new development was allegedly based on a directive from the Federal Ministry of Finance to the Customs headquarters. When contacted on phone on Tuesday, the Customs Public Relations Officer, Mr. Wale Adeniyi, denied knowledge of the development although he said that the agency would continue to implement any government directive. “I don’t know about the issue now, but if they told you that the action was based on a directive from the finance ministry, then there is nothing we can do than to ensure that the directive is implemented. We don’t make laws, we enforce government’s directives,” he said. But, Jolapamo noted that operatives of the agency had been chasing Nigerian-flagged vessels for 40 per cent of the value as import duty, which he argued, was “not supposed to be applicable to the Cabotage vessels some of which had been in the country before the Cabotage Law was enacted.” 

Story By Isiaka Adams

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