By Godfrey Bivbere
Concessionaires at the nationâ€™s port are still engage in illegal collection of charges abolished by the federal authorities over a year ago. Some of these charges that are additional cost to importers include terminal handling charges, tally charges, royalty positioning and transfer charges among others.
The federal government through the ministry of transport had ordered terminal operators to stop the collection following the out come of a committee set to review high cost of port operations in the country. The government had set up the committee as a result of a face off between clearing agents and the terminal operators last year.
The committee at the end of its sitting recommended that some charges be done way with because they are not in agreement with what is obtainable in other ports around the world especially neighbouring ports where importers prefer to s consign their goods to avoid the high cost of clearing from the Nigerian ports.
The submission of the committee which was signed on the 28th of February, 2009 and was forwarded to the Minister, stated in part that â€œTerminal Handling Charges (THC) was a charge levied by shipping lines prior to concessioning of the ports to cover the cost of Nigeria Ports Authorityâ€™s (NPA) inadequacy to provide plants and equipment as a result of the concessioning of the ports to private operators â€œThe committee therefore agreed that the THC should be removed from the Tariff of Terminal Operators, as this is not provided (for) in the operations rates in the concession agreement.â€
Amongst other charges the committee noted should be discontinued are, Royalty, Positioning charges and Transfer Charges which most of the terminal operators are still demanding from importers.
The committee further recommended that â€œthe under listed charges do not cover cost functions that should be separately borne by consignees; ISPS Codes, Bank charges, Tally Clerk charge, Port Administration charge, Concessionaire Royalty, Service Charge, 2nd positioning for examination, Hot Box charge and Terminal Delivery charge collected on behalf of concessionaires by ICDâ€™s.â€
The committee also after â€œreview of the concession agreement and the provision of Nigerian Laws, resolved that all charges illegally imposed or any increase illegally effected, should be reverted until properly negotiated and governmental approval granted.â€
On that occasion the Committee recommends that the Shipping line agency charge should not be paid by the consignee. It noted that the imposition of shipping line Agency fee was inappropriate. It further noted that all shipping line Agency fees are included in the cost of freight, from where an agent fee is remitted to the local agents. However, the committee recognised that documentation fee are payable by the consignee.â€
Vanguard investigation showed that in outright disregard to the recommendations of the committee and the directive of the government that un approved charges be abolished at the nationâ€™s ports in order to make them competitive with neighbouring ports, concessionaires are still applying the charges.
When Vanguard contacted the Minister of Transport, Alhaji Ibrahim Isa Bio via text message since he would not pick his calls, the minister did not respond as at press time while a member of that committee and Managing Director of NPA, Mallam Abdul Salam Mohammed, also did not respond to Vanguard queries on the issue.
Some of the Terminal Operators managing the ports presently are APM Terminals (APMT), Greenview Development Nigeria Limited (GDNL), Apapa Bulk Terminal Limited )ABTL), Tin-can Island Containers Terminal (TCICT), Ports and Cargo Limited, Five Star Logistics, ENL Consortium, Ports and Terminal Multi-purpose Limited (PTML)etc.
A source close to the minister of transport told Vanguard that the inability of the Minister to enforce the order on the terminal operators may not be unconnected with the fact that most of the terminal operators have powerful Nigerian backing that have used their connection in government to ensure that the order is not implemented.
When connected on the issue, the spokesman of Sifax Group of which Ports and Cargo is a subsidiary, Oliver Omajuwa, told Vanguard that he is not in a position to comment on the issue immediately as he would need some time to consult before responding.
He however Vanguard reporter to the officer in charge of bill, Mrs. Buma Ukwanna, who told Vanguard that they do not collect concessionaire Royalty charge, Positioning charge, ISPS Code charge, Tally Clark charge, Port Administration charge and some others. Ukwanna who told Vanguard she is not feeling well and has just left the office, admitted that they do collect some of the charges but quickly added that such charges (one of which is the THC) are not peculiar with Ports and Cargo because all the other terminal are also collecting them.
She explained that it is necessary that the issue be directed to the Sea Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) which is a body comprising all the terminal operators.
Efforts to connect the Chief Executive of ENL Consortium and Chairperson of STOAN, Mrs. Vikky Hasstrup, proved abortive because her phone was switched off.
Similarly, the media consultant of APMT, Mr. Bolaji Akinola, told Vanguard that â€œWe are aware of those charges and I can tell you that none of those charges is being collected by us. We are only collecting the approved charges,â€ he concluded.
Clearing Agents operating at the ports had alleged that the terminal operators were smiling to their banks without providing adequate cargo handling equipment for the port yet collecting charges on them and therefore making port operation in the country very expensive when compared to that of neighbouring countries.
Members of the committee are Captain A.A Biu, Executive Secretary of Nigeria Shippersâ€™ Council (NSC), who served as the chairman, Mallam Abdul Salam Mohammed, Managing Director of NPA, as a member, Anna Egharevba, Executive Direction in charge of Marine Operation in NPA, as a member, MAzi O.C Nzem, Special Assistant (Technical) to the Minister of Transport, as a member and Mr. Josiah Asanga, Apapa Port Manager, as member. Other members of the committee includes, Mr. Lucky Amiwero, President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Alhaji Adabayo Azeez of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Eugene I.
Nweke of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Francis Omotosho and Charles Oriaku, all of whom were members of that committee.