Shooting ,Pandemonium At MMIA As Clearing Agents, Customs Clash

By Chuks Okoh

There was pandemonium at the cargo unit of the Lagos International  Airport , Wednesday occasioned by clash between officials of the customs command and licensed clearing agents over mode of operations at the bulk breaking  area of the cargo terminal.

Trouble started when some clearing agents attacked Customs officials led by Customs Area Comptroller , Mr Taju Olarenwaju , who was on routine inspection of the bulk breaking unit of the cargo terminal to ensure compliance with new operating procedures .

Part of the mission of the inspection by the customs, it was learnt, was to ensure there are no touts at the bulk breaking area, which infuriated the agents propelling them to throw stones at the customs personnel .

Attempts by customs personnel to call the clearing agents to order proved abortive , as they prevented customs officials from carrying out the routine inspection  .

And as the clearing agents continued throwing stones at the customs officials, security agencies around the airport quickly mobilised to bring the situation to normalcy .

A source hinted that one customs officer was injured by the agents, who was hospitalised at the time of writing this report .

Worried that the situation may get out of hand, the airport command of the customs service , sent for mobilisation at the Federal Operations Unit,which deployed four armoured personnel carrier to the hajj camp axis of the airport to quell the rampaging agents .

Sequel to the ensuing confusion, there was sporadic shooting around the airport, forcing many agents , importers and others who do business around the cargo axis to close shops .

To restore normalcy to the cargo terminal, the customs it was learnt may have shut down the warehouse for import near the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company ( NAHCO), Plc .

A source hinted that the agents  were driven out of their offices allegedly by Customs officials, who reinforced from the Federal Operations Unit, while some were trapped in their offices, as they could not flee from the scene of the incident.

At the ANLCA secretariat, a clearing agent, whose name could not be ascertained was badly wounded alleged by Customs officials, was brought in  a bus with his clothes soaked in blood and was immediately rushed to undisclosed hospital at Mafoluku.

As at the time of compiling this report, agents were seen hanging around the entrance of the cargo session, the agents’ secretariat and around the airport.

Meanwhile, a source close to the Customs said it has communicated to NAHCo, the owner of the warehouse informing them of the intention to close the Bulk Breaking Area.

He added that Customs officials have been posted at the Bulk Breaking Area to forestall break down of law and order.

The source further said that Customs had  severally told the agents not  to come into the Bulk Breaking Area, during inspection but that they should only come when it is time for physical examination.

He further alleged allowing the agents to enter the Bulk Breaking Area at that time would lead to under declaration.

The Chairman of ANLCA),Mr Alloy  Igwe could not also be reached for official comment ,as he was said to be attending a very crucial meeting with his executive on the issue.