By Eguono Odjegba
INDUSTRIALISTS who invested in the nation’s ports logistic value chain with the establishments of bonded terminals have expressed anger and frustrations about alleged official neglect of the facilities by the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, and the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, among others.
Speaking on the issue, Executive Chairman of Fano Shipping Agencies Limited, Damian Emeka Obianigwe, expressed reservation about the commitment of the government to the investment agreements.
Obianigwe said the NPA should be blamed for the collapse of the Lagos ports’ roads and the gridlock it engendered, for failing to implement a working template on the bonded terminals to achieve a seamless cargo distribution and evacuation system.
He specifically accused NPA of failing to honour the agreement reached between the government in 2003 and the bonded terminal investors who were brought onboard to support the process of evacuation of containers from seaport terminals to bonded terminals, to create a seamless logistics chain.
He also lamented that though some bonded terminal owners were asked to provide bond by some of the terminal operators, the later reneged after N100million bonds were provided, separately.
He stated: “I borrowed huge money from the bank to establish Fano Bonded Terminal. The place was a complete swamp, I spent about N450million to sand fill the place and to get the right floor that will support serious operation. Surprisingly, NPA suddenly stopped sending containers there; that was the beginning of the problem. Fano Bonded Terminal can comfortably take a shipload of container. There are other bonded terminals scattered around Lagos; we started about the same time; their story is not much different from our own.
“Then APMT asked some of us to provide bond, I provided N100million bond, but nothing came out of it. Nigerian governments are dream killers; they lack honour; they lack ethics and they have no respect for investment agreements. This is very bad. The bank pulled me here and there for the loans I got for Fano. Tell me can anybody take our government serious anymore having deceived us and left us struggling for breathe?” he asked.
He attributed the perennial port roads gridlock to official double standard and insincerity. “Just look at what has been happening, a federal government unable to decongest the port roads, is that not a shame? Today it is Navy, tomorrow it is the Police, next tomorrow, it is LASTMA; it has been endless.
“So, the actual congestion is not the port roads. The congestion is caused mainly by containers inside the ports. First it is necessary to identify people who produced the paperwork and the so-called 2006 port privatization agreement and have them punished. They did shoddy job, they are shameless. How can you privatise your port without holding bays for empty containers and without truck parking bay in the paperwork?
“Why should ships be on queue waiting to discharge and containers take over the entire seaport terminals space when the bonded terminals are empty? I have been told Customs is part of the problem, how? Because of abandoned overtime containers? Okay, what about containers that are not overtime that have filled up the entire space?
“We have political leaders and appointees who no longer have character, integrity and competence. Is it not a shame that government is now about self, about narrow aspirations? Now we have a sitting presidential task force on ports road decongestion, do you know how much it takes to keep them; it runs into millions of naira every week, but what have they achieved, nothing.”
Also speaking, Chief Innocent Obelle, Chairman/CEO of Zenith Bonded Terminal said “The story of bonded terminals is a very sad one. The essence of having development partners is to grow and achieve port efficiency, it is very disappointing that government is not giving bonded terminals its due, and nobody is happy to lose money the way we have done.”