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- By Tordue Salem
Authorities of Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) have blamed the congestion at Nigerian ports on extortion checkpoints mounted by officers of the Nigeria Police and Nigerian Navy.
NPA Managing Director/CEO, Mr. Yusuf Bello made the claim during an
interactive session with the House of Representatives, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian
Shippers’ Council (NSC) and other ports’ operators organised by the Rep. Leke Abejide-led Committee on Customs &
Also at the hearing, Rep. Abejide assured that his Committee, will lobby for the establishment of Special Courts to fast-track prosecutions of offenses
at the ports.
The NPA boss also confirmed that over 5,000 containers are currently stocked at
various terminals including Onne, Calabar, Warri, among others, blocking business activities, adding that certain changes introduced by Customs and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) contributes to the existing challenges at the Ports.
“Let me mention here Sir, currently there are over 5,000 containers across the ports that are overtime cargoes, a cargo is overtime after 90 days. Some of these containers are actually more than a year old, and when you leave these containers there, you are also occupying space that would have been used for containers importedinto this country.
For instance APMT has 1,051, Watts has 660, Intelshas 169, ECMT has 574; we will give you the breakdown of all of them.
“Now let me add Sir, the containers are suppose to be evacuated to Ikorodu terminal. Currently Ikorodu terminal has over 2,500 containers the place is filled up. Nigeria Customs has not auction containers to the best of our knowledge in recent times.
So there is even no space to take empty containers. We haven’t seen any container moved out of Ikorodu terminal for auction, so there is need for that to be done in order to free ports of overtime cargoes some of them have been there for so many years.
“So that is a major problem, and if that can be handled, the terminals will be freerer to receive more imports and there will be more space for that.
And then Ikorodu went empty that is, if Customs auction these containers it will now have more space to move overtime cargoes to those locations.
“There were containers that were seized at the terminals that were containing explosives, the kind of explosives that created issues in the route, we heard that one of the remaining containers have been taking away about a week ago. So we have so many containers, there are jerry-cans of petrol at Ikorodu, I’ve written on that, so that Nigeria
Customs will take action, so that all those items are taking out, the other issue is about export containers and procedures.”
Mr. Yusuf who lamented the subjection of cargo to extra physical inspection at the port gates, Mr. Yusuf revealed that: “that also one of the issues that exporters also have. On the issue of e-call up system, it’s a system that was introduced to digitalize the manual system of bringing trucks into the ports.
The idea was for all trucks going locations to exit from appointed port terminals and then you’ll be called up and move from one terminal to the other and then they are suppose to have e-ticket, this was the terminal operators will know when their trucks are coming in.
In recent times, they have been given a dashboard. But there are multiple problems which we have been addressed, some of them are outside port authority, outside the purview of NPA.
“The first problem is the issue of extortion. There are multiple check points within where we call the Red Zone. There are multiple check points that are just springing up other than that of Nigerian Ports
Authority. And these checkpoints are manned by Police Officers, atimes you’ll find many in Naval uniform or Military escorting vehicles illegally and Lagos State Government has been very cooperative in terms of enforcement of SOP as it relates to the call-up system,” he said.
He however noted that at the inter-security agencies meeting held last week, the parties resolved to “identify all the checkpoints and the essence of the checkpoints is not to interfere with the traffic, the essence of the checkpoints is to verify that this truck is allowed to come.
Because when we discovered this, a lot of the trucks formerly will just park along the Tin-Can Apapa seaport looking for business; that means they actually have no business being in those locations and that is why the truck parks were created and automated. The other problem is the roads,” he lamented.
While affirming that the automated terminal delivery order (call-up) is operational, Yusuf stressed that the officers that suppose to impound the trucks who gained entrance into the Ports illegally, adding that “we are not the one manning the checkpoints, the people that suppose to impound are the people extorting, I’m sorry to say this.
“Atimes, you can count in a day, 15, 20, 30 checkpoints within the Tin-Can Apapa corridor and it’s really affecting the flow of traffic, mostly at night. Now it has graduated to Area Boys being the fifth man or whatever the call it, they stand there to collect this money on behalf of the uniformed men.
“Nigerian Port authority personnel or security are part of the teams we are taking the adequate measures to ensure that our staff are not involved. We have also heard of the Naval Command taking actions and possibly the Police,” he noted.
Rep Abejide who confirmed the incident, said: “Media please take note, there are multiple extortions along the road.
“We went round, we went to Lagos, we went round the country and all the ports, this my Committee they are here, and all the arrears we went, all the Area Controllers they were complaining of all these, even the transporters too complaining that they spend average of 250 to 300 to enter the port, so it’s not that we are hearing from you, we’ve heard it before.”
He charged the NPA to “Give us the list, first of all we cannot follow all the procedures to auction these containers, Customs should just auction direct.”
He lamented that one of the exporters of cocoa has 1,300 containers in APMT and that the vessels that suppose to carry the containers travel to China empty due to the high freight charges between 15,000 and 17,000.
On their parts, the lawmakers expressed concern over the influx of arms and ammunition as well as unabated smuggling of contraband goods into the country via land borders and ports despite about 97 check points manned by NCS officers between Lagos and Sokoto States.
They also underscored the need to activate all the 36 ports across the country in the bi to boost ease of doing business in the country, just they observed that only Lagos and Onne ports are currently being used at full capacity.
Some of the operators, who bemoaned the hurdles at the Customs office within the ports, disclosed that operators have to go through about 20 different tables to get approval for clearance of containers, which last for over three to five days.
They also queried other policies imposed on operators by fiat without consultation with stakeholders operating within the Ports, without prior notice, 3 free days for clearance, issuance of debit note in advance to cargo bound locations, cumbersome Customs documentation processes, high terminal charges , dysfunctional
Customs’ servers, newly introduced data capturing challenge, refusal to receive hard copy manifest which impact on turn around period, reschedule of notice on vessels without prior notice, absence of call-up system, among others establishment of Special Court that will assist in prosecuting0infractions at the ports.