By Godwin Oritse
LAGOSâ€”THE Nigerian Customs Services (NCS), has auctioned containers laden with equipment for the National Independent Power Project (NIPP), while diverting others, dealing a major setback to the 6,000 Megawatts (Mw) electricity supply projection of the Federal Government by December.
Mr. H.M. Pepple, head of the fast-track committee, said at a meeting that the Customs had auctioned some of the containers despite an order not to do so.
â€œIt has come to my notice that some of the containers have been auctioned by the Customs despite the order given not to auction them, some have been diverted and some are held down in Onitsha and other places.
â€œThey were imported for the development of our country and for everybody to benefit, but, see, some people are frustrating the effort because of their selfish interest which has brought about the delay in the clearance of these containers for delivery,” he said.
However, Pepple urged that the managements of NCS and shipping companies be asked to make things easier for all parties involved, ”to abort further delay that can bring about demurrages.”
â€œNational interest should be considered first so that the containers can be delivered promptly at the siteÂ when due and on time,â€ he urged.
Contractors alleged that NCS and some shipping firms involved have made clearing and delivery of the project containers impossible despite the government’s directive to fast-track the clearing.
According to the committee, the delay in the clearance of the containers is giving the Minister of Power serious concern, adding that there seemed to be no synergy between the shipping companies, scanning service providers, the customs and freight forwarders.
The delay in the clearance of the containers has resulted in huge demurrage running into billions of naira.
Another issue that contractors haveÂ against the customs is its insistence on collection of oneÂ per cent Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS), a fee that is paid to scanning service providers.
While the contractors argued that the containers have waivers, the Customs insisted that they cannot allow the containers leave the ports without the payment as they were under instruction to collect fees on every dutiable item.
However, the contractors argued that the people involved in the entire project have placed their personal interest above national interest.
â€œThis containers we are talking about are government-owned properties and not anybodyâ€™s personal belongings,â€ they said.
Meanwhile, no fewer thanÂ 7,000 containers laden with the NIPP equipment are currently stocked in seaports across the country due to lack of coordination and discrepancies between all the parties involved inÂ facilitating the clearance of these containers.
Vanguard gathered that Mearskline Shipping Company had planned to shut down its terminal at Kirikiri, Lagos, for repairs, but the occupation of its facility by these containers have put the plan on hold because the committee has pleaded with the shipping firm to wait until the containers are cleared.
Besides the terminal that have played host to some of these containers, some have also been stemmed to some bonded warehouses including Fano, Mitchelle owned by Mr. Peter Okocha, Automated Motor Logistics (AML), SIFAX, NACFA, and the Ikorodu Container depot.
Reacting to the sale of the containers, the spokesman for Apapa Customs Command, Mr Chidera Nnadi, said he personally released one container that stayed in the port for almost three years, adding that he explained to Customs agents involved in the clearance of the containers that they attract zero-duty.
â€œI am not aware that NIPP containers have been auctioned by the Customs because of the nature of the project they are meant for.â€