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Shippers’ body backs Senate’s probe of missing 282 vessels

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LAGOS — The Shippers Association, Lagos State, SALS, has backed the probe by the Senate Joint Committee on Customs, Excise & Tariff and Marine Transport over the missing 282 vessels at the nation’s ports.

Senate chamber

The association in a statement signed by its President, Rev. Jonathan Nicol, yesterday, said the infractions had been going on for a long time, which it complained on several occasions to the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, without action.

The group said it would not be the first time vessels would be missing from the Nigerian ports as the first occurred during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration when his Adviser on Maritime  blew the whistle.

It said: “Investigations were done haphazardly when he raised the alarm and it is coming up again. Every allegation raised by the Senate Committee seems to have an iota of truth and as such, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) should provide a pathway to unravel the ugly recurring incidence.

“The Senate Committee is only trying to rebuild a new platform for a sustainable and progressive Nigerian maritime that will be a future pride for Nigeria in the international community. Our association is keen to see a new port order with an un-stained flag.”

It alleged that ship owners collude with importers to evade paying customs duties, a situation the association had sought audience with the present Managing Director of the NPA without success.

SALS said the infraction had led Nigeria to loss of huge revenue and commended the Senate for acting promptly to block the revenue leakages at the ports.

The Association urged Nigerians to support the Senate in the probe by providing useful information to assist members of the committee in its task, instead of the blackmail currently mounted by some Nigerians to derail the probe and divert attention from the monumental loss in revenue at ports.

“Nigerians on genuine efforts to better the lot of the country should be supported in all ramifications and not any cheap blackmail to discourage them because it will not lead us any where,” the association added.

While calling for better synergy among Ports operators, the President   said the Association remains firmly committed to be fair and unbiased to all stakeholders in the industry and was prepared to work with the NPA to provide useful information on the leakages in the maritime sector.

It would be recalled that the Senate’s Joint Committee on Customs, Excise & Tariff and Marine Transport headed by Senator Hope Uzodimma had recently raised alarm on the whereabouts of over 282 vessels allegedly missing from the sea ports and summoned the NPA MD to appear before it to explain but rather than comply, the latter embarked on media trial of the summons, ostensibly to blackmail the Committee.

The Committee during its hearing noted that over N30 trillion was lost through leakages in Customs and other agencies and further accused the activities of a port cabal that had defrauded the nation to the tune of over N30 trillion and said “Preliminary evidence before us suggests that this is the case in all sea ports”.

The Committee noted that the leakages and infractions were costing the country huge revenue losses, while also constituting security threat.

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