This development, according to the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), is a fall-out of the government’s decision of replacing Cotecna (the Destination Inspection agent), with an apparently less capable inspection agent. Expressing deep concern over the worsening situation at the Lagos port, the LCCI said the replacement of the service provider was already creating serious capacity gaps in the cargo clearing process.
According to a report by Hellenicshippingnews, the LCCI has equally expressed the fear that the regime change at the port would lead to what it described as “aggravation of corruption and extortion at the port as importers struggle to clear their cargo through the bottlenecks and risk of exacerbation of inflation, as goods are not quickly cleared from the port to meet relevant needs in the economy thus undermining the supply side of the economy.” Thus, agitated by the possible negative impacts of the change of guards at the port, the LCCI said that the Federal Ministry of Finance owed the nation and stakeholders an explanation for the decision. It noted that already, importers now grapple with the nightmare and inefficiency arising from long delays in scanning of containers, cargo clearing and related activities.
A critical question stakeholders in the marine business ask is the underlying factors responsible for the decision to replace Cotecna with a new inspection agent. Yet anyone previously used to doing business at the Lagos port, considered to be the potential hub of marine trade in the west coast of Africa, will readily testify to the headache, if not heartache, hitherto experienced by importers at the port.
Clearing a container used to take anything between two weeks and one month or even more. The presence of all manner of government agencies including the customs, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and tax officials created great disincentive for business with their multiplicity of charges and fees thereby making Nigerian ports less competitive with their peers in the West and Central African sub-regions.
This cumbersome arrangement coupled with high demurrage charges, cost of servicing borrowed money by importers, disruption of production schedules for manufacturers whose imported raw materials were stuck at the port, and the attendant inability of suppliers to meet contractual deadlines took a heavy toll on the economy. Furthermore, this high cost of doing business at the ports was ultimately passed on to consumers by way of high prices. Meanwhile the ports were turned into one organised centre for corruption and chaos. It was in the face of this ugly situation that government intervened in 2006 by ordering all the sundry agencies out of the ports and brought in Cotecna as the Destination Inspection Agent. The government said at the time that it was committed to transforming the ways of doing business at the port with a view to bringing the time limit for clearing cargoes to 48 hours.
Information from The Nation was used in this report.