Clearing agents on Monday grounded activities at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.
The agents protested the new policy by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Lagos airport command, which directed that from July 13 all consignments should be on Form M.
NAN reports that Jayne Shoboiki, customs area comptroller, MMIA, issued the directive.
In reaction, leaders of clearing agents ordered their members to vacate the premises while the command hierarchy locked the long room.
The aggrieved clearing agents accused the customs of tripling the charges for clearance of consignments at the airport.
They described the directive as retrogressive, stressing that some of the consignments could not come with Form ‘M’ as they were not major goods.
Chris Nwabuzor, an official of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) at the Lagos airport, told journalists that most of the policies introduced by the comptroller could not work at the airport.
Nwabuzor said some of their consignments could not fall into the category directed by the command.
He said the clearing agents had begun an indefinite strike to register their grievances, vowing that they would not resume until the command address their grievances.
“Since this new comptroller came on board, it has been from one crisis to the other,” he said.
“Initially, she claimed that customs introduced a new system which will enhance clearance of cargo at the airport. In fact, most of the consignments we were supposed to clear entered demurrage in the process.
“Today again, the command sent out a circular that as from July 13, which is two weeks from now, all consignments, must be on Form M, which is not possible.
“Form M is for huge consignments, but some of our consignments do not fall into that category. For instance, if you want to clear a kilogramme good now, it must be on Form M.
“Even, at the seaport, car importation and clearance does not fall under Form M; how come goods of just one kilogramme and more will now fall under this category?”
In response, Ephraim Haruna, the command public relations officer, confirmed the circular, saying it is not for immediate implementation.
Haruna said the command had new machines which were installed recently, adding that the system recognises only that information.
“We have not given any deadline; we just issued them a circular today informing them that from July 13, they should make sure all their consignments coming into the country are on Form M,” Haruna said.
“We ought to have commenced the policy immediately, but they complained that some of the consignments were already ordered and we gave them enough time to plan ahead.”