By Foster Obi
What started as mild protest from the wharf end of Apapa, Lagos for three days has become a full blown crisis Tuesday as protesters stopped every form of movement or transaction.
However an interesting part of the protest is that clearing agents took the opportunity to air their grievances especially against the Nigerian Customs.
The agents who gathered in groups told the people that agents have been oppressed for a longtime and this presents an opportunity for total overhaul of the system.
“For a longtime we have not been doing any serious work. You import your product, before you clear it; the Customs will make you to pay through your nose. After clearing your consignment it becomes another wahala to carry your products. See all the trucks on the queue. Before you enter the port, the army and police with port officials will connive and collect N200, 000 from you. Before you go in and come out you have spent N500, 000 just to settle people. Tell me what kind of wicked system is that,” one of the agents said while some other protesters urged him on.
It was a chaotic situation today in front of Nnewi building as protesters carried green leaves and waved the Nigerian flag while calling for an end to police brutality and extortion.
The Custom agents on their own called for end to extortion by the Customs and security agents. They said that things are worsening because there is so much corruption at the gateway to the nation’s economy and the governmentseem to be looking the other way because the people collecting the illegal money for trucks to enter the wharf are fronts mounted by people in high places.
They said that if there is no official connivance, the illegal collection would have stopped since many years that it has become a norm.
They also highlighted that a situation where goods are released from the wharf and only to be rearrested by another customs command on the highway, for reasons that cannot be properly explained is another name for corruption.
Most of the agents sighted were not known faces. Economywatchng.com however identified Chief Osita Chukwu, the Coordinator of Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Importers and Exporters Coalition (SNFFIEC), when he entered Nnewi building and came out distributing water and biscuits to some of the protesters.
When our correspondent confronted him, he said that although he just happened on the protesters, he decided to refresh them because he is totally against oppression and corruption.
“I just spent my money to buy drinks for them to make a point. I didn’t know about the protest but time has come for a total overhaul of this corrupt and extortionist system as it is weighing heavily on the well being of Nigeria as a nation,” he declared.
Asked whether he will lead the protest further on, he told Economywatchng.com that he has always been an activist and whether he is asleep or awake, he has opposed oppression and corrupt system.
With the way the protesters took over Apapa and environs, it is not likely that there will be any transaction here this week, except the government hearkens to them.
Pix: part of the scene at the protest