As relevant authorities continue to handle cargo clearance issues with levity, more Nigerian shippers or cargo owners are said to have relocated to ports of neighbouring countries, particularly Benin Republic, which enforces faster clearance. Delays in releasing cargoes by the Nigerian Customs Service and other issues resulting in congestion have been blamed for this development.
Shippers’ Association in Lagos State has also confirmed the relocation of its members to ports of neighbouring countries over the same issue of delays. This is coming as the Federal Government is reportedly set to transfer at least 4000 unclaimed containers from the various terminals in Lagos ports to Ikorodu Lighter Terminal, in what has become an annual ritual meant to decongest the port terminals.
A similar exercise was carried out in 2012, when about 4500 containers were discovered to be unclaimed by their owners and transferred to Ikorodu.
It was gathered that a ministerial committee, drawn from both the Ministry of transport, the Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA) and the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) as well as some interests have already been constituted and have concluded plans on how to move the current set of 4000 containers to Ikorodu, an exercise estimated would gulp about N200 million.
The newly-elected President of the Shippers’ Association in Lagos State, Jonathan Nicole earlier in the week confirmed that many of their members had relocated to neighbouring countries, which enforced quick clearance of cargoes.
He told newsmen in Lagos that shippers pay too much on demurrage, saying that government should ensure early clearance of cargoes.
He appealed to the Customs not to delay cargoes if they did not contain exhibits. He said cargo clearance within 48-hours will be a mirage if the Customs continue to delay cargoes which do not contain exhibits for further examination. “Once a container has been scanned and found not wanting, it should be released without delay. It is only the ones with red sign that should be dropped for thorough examination,” he said.
According to him, unnecessarily delaying cargoes at the port causes the importer to incur demurrage and this impact negatively on business. He called on Nigerian freight forwarders who have relocated to return home in order to contribute to economic growth of Nigeria, ‘It is better that Nigerians invest in their country where nobody can send them away.’
Meanwhile, spokesman for the Customs at Tin-Can Island Port Command, Chris Osunkwo, said that most importers were responsible for the delay in cargo clearance as majority of them do “heterogeneous imports” and this can cause delay sometimes. He said that this is unlike when the bulk of the imports are homogenous.
He also said that most importers were not honest in their declarations. “There must be honest declaration by the importer or his agent. It is important to do this to achieve the 48-hour clearance target. If the declaration tallies with what is inside the container, it makes the work faster, but if not, it creates difficulties,” Osunkwo said.
Information from Daily Independent was used in this report.