09 January 2014, Lagos – National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, has said that Nigerian ports would have been the preferred ports in the sub-region but for policy inconsistency on the part of government.
Shittu, who disclosed this, said most of the problems in the ports were caused by government and called for concrete efforts to correct these anomalies.
The ANLCA boss said port operators complain about the multiple charges by terminal operators and shipping companies but do not consider the problems that they (terminal operators and shipping companies) are facing.
According to him, “All the things that we were crying against in 2011, 2012 still reoccurred in 2013. When you banned rice, somebody who goes abroad and is returning home will say, let me just bring in 10 bags of rice and distribute to my people and the 10 bags of rice passes through the port.
“10 bags of rice in almost 200,000 containers, how many bags of rice have entered into the country or is it illegal to bring food to your people so they can eat? But in the ten bags coming into the country, some people will benefit.
“We are talking of smuggling now, when 20 gun throttling smugglers meet a Customs officer on the way, what will happen? But when our import regime is friendly, there will be no alternatives to Nigerian ports.
When you take it to Cotonuo, you must pay for all the charges in Cotonuo and must put these things in an effective transport mode and you deal with foxes who want to make money from you resulting in additional cost. By the time it gets to Balogun the goods will be so expensive than when you ship them through our ports.”
On multiple charges by terminal operators and shipping companies, Shittu explained that “Even up till now we have not been able to identify what people call multiple charges.
It was in 2012 that the Minister of Transport through the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) granted increase in storage charges in order to discourage people from using the ports for storage purposes.
“A least charges have remained constant. There is no terminal operator that has deliberately increased charges but that does not mean that the charges regime at the port is acceptable to all stakeholders.
“The concession agreement states that when changes are to be adjusted stakeholders meeting should be called” but he expressed regret that NPA has deliberately ignored this provisions over the years. The ANLCA boss said that NPA only call the terminal operators and shipping companies and neglects the others.
He warned that unless government makes deliberate efforts to correct some of these problems, stakeholders may resort to self help which he stated will not be in the interest of the nation’s economy.
*Godfrey Bivbere, Vanguard