By Godfrey Bivbere
The shallow nature of the port in Calabar is affecting the revenue collection of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) and that of Calabar command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the Chairman, Presidential Task Force on Customs Reform, Dr Mohammed Bello has said.
Bello, whose committee was on tour of the Calabar port recently, said that from complaints received so far from port operators, only few ships were coming into the port, saying this was not good.
He therefore stressed the need for the channel to be dredged as soon as possible to revive maritime business in the State.
According to him, the situation has affected the 2009 Calabar Customs revenue target which fell below expectations. The former Director of Customs said that apart from the shallow Calabar River, the problem of bad roads from Aba to Ikot Ekpene and Calabar would also need to be addressed.
President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua in his 10th year democracy speech promised that the 84_kilometers Calabar channel would be dredged to open up the port.
Addressing the Committee, the Chief Executive Officer of Global Scansystem Ltd _ the service provider for Calabar port, Mr Fred Udechukwu said that low shipping activities combined with problems of fencing by INTELS Nigeria Ltd and ECM Terminals Ltd had affected cargo scanning activities. Udechukwu said that both companiesâ€™ fences were obstructing cargo_laden trucks from having smooth access to the scanning sites.
He said that the matter had been reported to the Minister of Finance, the Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), but no action has been taken so far. Bello said that the Committee would take the matter of lack of accessibility to scanning sites at the port to the Minister of Finance, Dr Mansur Muktar. The Customs Comptroller, Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Calabar Free Trade Zone, Mr Ralph Bellu said that as at half year, the command had collected only N1.1 billion out of its annual total revenue target of N5.8 billion.
Bellu also said that the command had not been able to meet up its average N450 million revenue target in a month. â€œWe are away from the target because of low shipping activities and the global economic meltdownâ€, the Comptroller said. He said that in the last nine months, no container ship had berthed at the port, saying that he had sensitised car dealers to start importing through the port. The Comptroller added that the revenues of the command came mainly from imports by Dangote Flour Mills.
At the Calabar Free Trade Zone, the General Manager, Mr Williams Akogu said that the major problem was theÂ ban placed on some products produced in the zone as well as inadequate land.
Akogu said that as a result of the ban, most of the companies in the zone like the wood factory had folded up and this had led to massive job loss. The General Manager of a Chinese company operating in the zone â€“ Skyrun International Group, Mr Peng Ting said his company assembles refrigerator, televisions, water dispensers and airconditioners. Ting said that the company had been able employ 200 Nigerians and exporting some of its products to Ghana. He, however, told the task force that the problem confronting the company had been inflation.