By Godfrey Bivbere
LAGOSâ€”THE Minister of Transport, Alhaji Yusuf Suleiman, is today leading the presidential taskforce constituted to look into problems leading to the high cost of clearing goods in the ports, to Lagos, to combat multiplicity of security agents struggling to perform the functions of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS.
Similarly, the government, last Wednesday, ordered the suspension of berthing of vessels at the Apapa old container terminal managed by AP Moller Terminal, APMT, until further notice. This is as a result of allegations of arbitrary charges and deliberate delay of cargoes leading to congestion at the port.
Some of the agencies in the ports are National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Standard Organisation of Nigeria, Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Navy, State Security Service, and NAFDAC and Quarantine.
A source close to the minister said Suleiman had got approval from the Presidency after the meeting last week with freight forwarders who had threatened to embark on strike.
Confirming this to Vanguard in Lagos, National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayewola Shittu who spoke exclusively to Vanguard, said that would be in Lagos this week to specifically address the issue of multiply security agencies at the ports.
According to Shittu, â€œThe Minister will be in Lagos all through next week (this week) leading the Presidential Task force to address the issue of multiply security agencies at the ports.â€
Asked about the effect of multiply security agencies at the ports, Shittu said that their activities do not only lead to high cost of port operation but also causes delay in the time it takes to clear goods from the nationâ€™s ports.
The ANLCA helmsman told Vanguard that all the various security agencies are struggling with Customs to perform the same duty.
The management of NCS has been directed to immediately commence the transfer of containers from the port to bonded terminal to create space for the growing congestion at the terminal.
Vanguard gathered that the Minister had discussed his findings at the Presidency and was instructed to issue a directive to the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) stop berthing of vessels to APMT with immediate effect.
Confirming this also, Prince Shittu said that government â€œ has suspended vessels from berthing at the APMT to help ease the congestion building up there.â€
Shittu disclosed that the Minister said the order is to last until the private terminal operator completes the construction work going on there.
The ANLCA boss explained that the decision may not be unconnected with the long queue of containers awaiting clearance and inadequate equipment at the terminal for speedy cargo clearance.
He noted that Suleiman also told the management of the terminal to stop collection of charges for any service not rendered.
It would be recalled that the Minister had to hurry down to Lagos on Monday following threat of a strike action by the agents against indiscriminate charges by the private terminal operator.
After consultation with the agents, he was able to convince them to shelve the strike while a task force was constituted to look at their grievances.
When contacted, Media Consultant to APMT, Mr. Bolaji Akinola, confirmed that suspension of berthing of vessels to the terminal however explained that it is a temporary measure taken by the Minister to help clear the backlog of containers at the port.
Akinola explained that the decision would be reverted immediately a thing normalizes.