By Ifeyinwa Obi
Coming on the heels of the N1 trillion revenue target set for the Nigeria Customs Service, the Shippers Association Lagos State, SALS, has assured the Federal Government that it could conveniently generate N7 trillion annually from the maritime sector if all stakeholders join hands to do the right things.
The shippers, however, faulted the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hamid Ali (retd), for setting a N1 trillion target for the Customs, saying that there are no cargoes at the ports to realise such revenue.
The shippers also raised alarm that 60 percent of the containers at the ports are empty.
Speaking in Lagos, President of SALS, Reverend Jonathan Nicole, said that if government decides to evacuate the empty containers from Nigerian ports, the ports would be virtually empty.
Nicole said that the N1 trillion target for the Customs was not realisable unless government changes some of its existing economic policies.
According to him, other sub-sectors of the maritime industry, if properly developed, could realise as much as N7 trillion for the government.
“But if we now put a tag on the neck of customs officers to go and generate N1.1 trillion, then they would be offending a lot of people. The officers would begin to do things that they are not supposed to do and this will bring bad blood between them and shippers.
“The goods on ground at the ports are what should determine if they can achieve the target. If there are no goods, I don’t see how realistic the target can be. But I will say that there are not enough goods to generate that kind of money,” he said.
“It is true that the containers are there in the port, but about 60 percent of these containers are empty, so where are the goods? If government says today that all empty containers should leave our ports, our ports will be empty,” he said
Nicole said that shippers would not be happy if customs goes ahead in pursuit of the target because bottlenecks would be created while terminal operators profit off the delay.