Duties’ duplication hampers port growth

Lack of unique port pricing mechanism and unfriendly government policies are affecting cost of doing business in Nigerian ports. BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports

For the port system to be efficient, Shippers’ Association of Lagos State (SALS) has advised the Federal Government to repeal some unfriendly import policies in order to achieve the 48- hour cargo clearance target in Nigerian ports.

Similarly, customs agents under the umbrella of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), said that extortion by police, customs and other security operatives at the port, has become a major challenge to port users.

While the President of SALS, Rev. Jonathan Nicol, said in Lagos that documentation in the import and export value chain should be reduced to ease the procedure of clearing cargoes within 48 hours, the National Publicity Secretary of ANLCA, Dr Kayode Farinto, urged the Inspector General of Police to reduce all police units in all the ports to one in order to curb corruption and boost efficient service delivery.

Nicol noted that massive diversion of Nigeria-bound cargoes to other African ports had led to huge revenue loss to Cotonou Port in Benin Republic.

Issues

Miffed by the challenges faced by importers and customs agents, Farinto said that apart from the issue of extortion with NCS, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), which is supposed to ensure that substandard goods must not leave the ports, is also struggling to make money by arresting cleared containers on the road. Also, he noted that there was duplication of duties among the police, adding that various units were on the road to stop cargoes that had been duly cleared at the port.

Farinto said: “There are more than seven units of police at the port. There are situations where cargoes duly cleared at the port are arrested at by police from Zone 1, Zone II and so on and we have a situation where Alagbon Squad and X Squad would come to arrest cargoes that have not been released at the port.

We have issues where X-Squad collects manifest at the port, having looked at the juicy ones, they would now write to shipping companies to hold the containers on the ground that they were under investigation.”

He explained that the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and State Security Service (SSS) were at the port too. Farinto said: “When I was young in this industry, we used to hear of SSS and Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) but we didn’t know them. Today, we know their seats in the ports. It is as bad as that.

“It was not like that in Ghana, when we went to Ghana on survey, all you need to do is just to slot in your Vehicle identification Number (VIN) and it will bring out the duty you are supposed to pay on vehicles.

If it is 2010 Camry car, you will pay the duty. But here in Nigeria, if you have the 2010 Camry cars, one in Lagos Port,Tincan Island Port and Port and Terminal Multi-service Limited, it is not the same value you will pay.

We have advised Customs to upload this value for us, so that importers would know the value of what they are paying but they will say no to you. In fact, the value they use is always under the table.”

To boost efficient trade facilitation, Nicol explained that payment of all cargo clearance fees by importers at one point would simplify the movement of cargo.

He recalled that the massive diversion of Nigerian-bound cargo to other African ports was high in 2012 as a result of huge bills paid by shippers in Nigeria to various government agencies as well as shipping and terminal operators.

Solution

Nicol also suggested that standard operating procedures should be implemented as a working tool for all practitioners.

He said: “Adequate and efficient port pricing mechanism should be in place to reduce the cost of doing business in Nigeria. The Nigerian Transport Commission (NTC) Bill should be passed into law as soon as possible to bring calm to the industry and stop intrigues and suspicions.”

Conclusion

Government should create efficient service delivery system in order to make Nigerian port the hub of shipping.

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