Freight forwarders under the aegis of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents have accused officials of the Nigeria Customs Service, Tin Can Island Port Command, of conniving with cyber cafe operators in the hacking and illegal application of passwords for clearing of goods.
The agents alleged that some Customs operatives with access to the classified passwords of freight forwarders have been conniving with unscrupulous persons to hack into the accounts of licensed agents in getting their goods cleared without payment of requisite taxes and duties.
This practice has led to the suspension of the operational license of affecteed agencies in addition to their having to pay for the appropriate charges. According to leaders of the Tin Can Island Port, their members have incurred losses running into millions of naira.
Records at the port's command of the Customs shows that the practicing licenses of over 80 freight agencies have been blocked by the Customs due to the activities of password hackers.
Previously, the leadersip of ANLCA had petitioned Bashar Yusuf, area controller of the command stating even the names of four Customs officers they allege are colluding with the operators of cyber cafes. the freight forwarders are bitter that the controller has failed to address the issue.
One of the documents dated April 18, 2017 and addressed to the Area Controller requested that 37 Assessment Notice Numbers illegally data captured on licenses between March and April be locked down so that perpetrators having assess to them cannot continue further processing with them.
"We discover that there was a breach and hacking of our password to transact this assessment notices. Currently, our findings show that four different Customs officers with password /access Number was used to release this declarations" the agents' petition stated. They stated that despite obvious discrepancies in the declarations, such goods were usually released, leaving the agency whose account has been hacked to bear sole responsibility of the fake transaction.
"Our request therefore, is that the APM should help to immediately stop further processes on the declaration while we continue to un-mask the agency that got the cargo released at shipping lines as well as agency that exited the cargo from the terminal operators", the statement signed by executive director, Salim International Limited, Sir John Ofobike noted.
Meanwhile, the managing director, Mickey Excellency Nigeria Limited, Alhaji Babatunde Mukaila Abdulazeez, has lamented that the Customs has failed to live up to its promise to issue individual passwords to owners of licenses, adding that that would have curbed the growing prevalence of the hacking.
He alleged that Customs officers and men are deeply involved in the hacking of passwords noting further that the practice has jeopardised license owners' operations.
He recalled that the Customs had pledged to close down all commercial cyber cafes in a bid to put an end to fraudulent operations, adding that the existence of the cafes has further truncated efforts of genuine operators to adhere to extant provisions to boost trade facilitation.
According to Abdulazeez, the practice is common at Tin Can Island Port, Lagos, noting that plans are on going to confront Customs officers alleged t be involved in the unwholesome acts.
He sought the prompt intervention of the comptroller general of Customs, Col.. Hameed Ali (rtd) to put an end to the practice.
Contacted, spokesman of the command, Uche Ejesieme, urged the agents to come up with evidence as the command will not tolerate unsubstantiated allegations against its officers.
Ejesieme, however, noted that issues surrounding password hacking would be a thing of the past soon as measures are being put in place to check the practice.