By Godfrey Bivbere, Agibail Ezewanfo & Kemi Abioye
Operators in the maritime industry have faulted the federal government for its lack of political will to enforce regulations that would lead to reduction in the cost of port operations in the country.
The operators made their positions known in Lagos last week at the 3rd Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference put together by the Maritime Forum of the University of Lagos with the theme: Port Cost and Port Charges a Recurring Decimal under Port Reforms Regime.”
Executive Vice Chairman of ENL Consortium, Princess Vicky Haastrup, said that most of the problems are because of the insincerity of government in implementing its policies as well as policy instability.
According to her, “Federal government is the problem. There was no sincerity on the part of government itself. If you look at what is happening in Apapa today, there is no enabling environment.
“The Vice President going over the place talking about ease of doing business in Nigeria, is government supportive in itself? The port should be a one stop shop but we are far from it because there is no sincerity on the part of anyone.
“I am not absolving the terminal operators, terminal operators inclusive, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA inclusive, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC and port users inclusive and even the freight forwarders too.
“In 2006 when we took over the operations of the ports, naira was N125 to a dollar, what is it today, it is N362 as at yesterday. By implication our cost of operation has increased by almost 100 percent, salary is going up. Putting the right infrastructure in place will cost money; who bears the cost; are we considering him.
“What was Customs duty on commodities and cargos imported into Nigeria in 2006; what is it now? I know that if you are bringing in brand new car it is 70 percent plus other charges by the Customs. Is Customs charging the same amount today as it was charging in 2006?
“Rather than shouting terminal operators, is NIMASA’s charges the same as it was in 2006; who moderates them; who regulates them; who looks at what they are charging? I am not talking only about NIMASA; NPA is also there; Shippers Council is also there.
“What NIMASA charges is one of the highest in the world; am I not right?
How can importers go to Republic of Benin because of terminal operators? It is because of government policies, policy summersaults. “Do they sit well and think deeply before changing policies every time.
An importer will place an order for goods, Customs will increase tariff on the item without consideration for such an importer that has opened letter of credit; is that wise; have they not put him in trouble?
Similarly, immediate past National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, said government’s indecision in the implementation of its policies is also a problem. Shittu noted that the presence of multiple government agencies at the port has also push up the cost of port operations. He noted that government in one instance will reduce the number of agencies to operate in the port only to recede its decision and even allowing more agencies into the port.