By Godfrey Bivbere
Commercial banks in the country have been accused of contributing to the high level of corruption in the maritime sub-sector through abuse ofÂ form â€œMâ€.
Speaking at a one day sensitization seminar tagged: The Economic Imperative of Reviving Eastern Ports, Managing Director of Skelas Nigeria Limited, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, said the transfer of the Form â€œMâ€ function from Customs to the banks have not helped matters.
He saidÂ that there had been situations where the banks defraud government of several millions of naira by holding back revenue which is supposed to be paid to government. Shittu, who is also theÂ Chairman, Committee on Public Relations of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding of Nigeria, CRFFN, expressed worry that despite the abuses of the banks in this regard goes unreported in the media.
He also blamed the actions of SGS, the destination inspection agent responsible for Port Harcourt port for the movement of importers from there to LagosÂ occasioned by sharp increases in port charges.
He explained that they (SGS) not only jack up the charges of the freight of cargoes but also the value of such goods. The Skelas bossÂ commended maritimes journalistsÂ for organising the forum, sayingÂ there is need for government to take a critical look at the issues raised and ensure that deliberate efforts are made to improve maritime activities at the port.
Also speaking at the seminar, a maritime expert, Mr. Adeleye Ajayi,Â charged the Federal Government to work at exploiting the economic potentials of the eastern ports for the benefit of people, as well as reducing the restiveness in the Niger-Delta region.
The continued neglect of the eastern port has contributed in no small way to the restiveness in the region.
Ajayi said that the economic benefits of full exploitation of ports in the eastern part to the federal and state governments as well as the various communities in the region cannot be over emphasised.
The problems that needed to be tackled immediately to achieve the above desire according to him, are, â€œMilitancy, problem of pilotage, shallow navigational channels and bad roads.â€
He said â€œit is therefore a matter of urgency that the Federal Government should find a logical solution to the issue of militancy by ensuring that adequate infrastructure are made available to the communities. Government should also resolve once and for all the problem of ship pilotage along the Delta creeks.â€