April 27, 2022

Stakeholders fault SON over quest for presence in-ports


By Godfrey Bivbere

Stakeholders in the Nigeria’s ports industry have said that the campaign by the Standard Organisation of Nigeria, SON, to return to the ports is questionable.

They explained that the claims by SON that its presence at the port will help reduce the flooding of the nation’s markets with sub-standard goods, is not only false but unfounded since its officials are still operating at the seaports despite the Federal Government’s directive to the contrary.

The stakeholders spoke at a Harboursandport WhatsApp group (Maritime industry experts discussion platform), noted that without SON’s release authorisation signed and endorsed by the Customs Area Command, CAC, importers’ release and clearance of such SON related imports is dead on arrival.

In his contribution, a maritime lawyer and an Assistant General Manager at the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA,Ahmed Wanka, said SON’s desire to return to the ports is driven by its personnel’s intention to operate without Customs involvement.

In his words, “For those of us who work in the ports, we have consistently seen these spasms.

 There are people in some organisations who believe they cannot survive without partaking in the ports’ activities.

“Therefore, whenever there is a change in policy or where the new management is being hailed for doing well, this issue keeps coming back. We have seen it with National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA and it is now SON.

“What is SON going to do new in the port, what has it been doing? The only thing it does is to list container numbers and give the Port Manager that those containers would be inspected because they have intelligence reports about the quality of the goods inside.

“Trust Nigerians, within 24 hours or a maximum of 48 hours, they will send another letter clearing them. Let us be honest, have the goods been standardised while inside the containers, has the defect in them been made good?

“Yes, people import substandard goods but their arrival in the port is only a part of the importation process. If SON is serious, it knows where all goods are imported from and can easily get the source and nature of such goods without necessarily coming into the ports.”

Chinedu Ogbonna, former Public Relations Officer of Tin-can Island Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, said that “Presently the SON is involved in all examinations in the ports and they always, as a rule, write a report of such examination; without such examination reports, they will impound your container loaded on trucks at Area B (outward Ijora), or at Mile 2 (outward Tin-can port) and such other checkpoints where they are positioned all over the Ports and Terminals.

“Moreover, SON has access to all shipping manifests and usually blocks all SON-related imports through the Nigerian Customs Service. Without SON release authorisation, signed and endorsed by the Customs Area Command, CAC, your release and clearance of such SON-related imports is dead on arrival.

“It is erroneous, false and misinformation to say that SON is not operating or functional at the Nigerian Ports.”

Similarly, Managing Director of Kammany Marine Services Limited, Charles Okorefe, said SON has never left the ports despite the federal government’s directive that they should exit the ports.

Okorefe explained that “SON has never left the ports at any time; they are ubiquitous for cargo examination at the ports. So must they clog the terminals with offices and signposts before we know they are there?

“In any case, the ports remain Customs ports and it is the prerogative of the Customs to invite SON or other agencies of government to witness cargo examination only when the need arises.”

Former National President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, Eugene Nweke, said “Come to think of it, who says the SON is not in the ports (terminal) as we speak.

“Across all the terminals, the SON designated staff are available and monitors the cargo physical examination. And they interface with the freight forwarders every day,” he noted.