The Chairman of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) Vicky Haastrup has said that the Federal Government was losing billions of naira as revenue due to manual cargo clearing process of the Nigeria Customs Service.
Haastrup maintained that the efficiency of the seaports is also being hampered by poor port access roads, and the preponderance of overtime goods at the nation’s seaports.
Speaking in Lagos on Thursday at the 2019 Annual Stakeholders’ Appreciation Night organised by Nigerian Shippers’ Council, the STOAN Chairman said bad roads have become “the largest single obstacle working against the efficiency of our ports”.
According to her, “Port operators and port users are groaning under the weight of severe stress posed by severely dilapidated port access roads. While terminal operations at all the ports have attained varying degrees of efficiency, the severely dilapidated roads leading into and out of the ports are fast eroding the gains of the port reforms we all worked hard to achieve.”
She said port workers, government officials and other stakeholders daily endure avoidable stress to resume work and return to their homes.
“Recently, I read the newspaper account of a Customs Controller who said that officers serving at his command frequently fall ill because of the Apapa gridlock and the attendant stress induced by commuting daily to and from work on motorbikes, which many have resorted to because the roads are no longer passable. There is only so much the body can endure,” she said.
Haastrup also identified manual clearing processes as another major issue hindering the efficiency of the ports.
She said, “The scanners at the port are not working, while almost all the cargoes landed at our ports are subjected to 100 percent physical examination. This certainly slows down the cargo delivery process and increases the cost of doing business. We urge the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, work on automating Customs processes at our ports and installing functional scanners to reduce manual clearing processes.
“Automation and scanning will reduce human contacts at the port and cut down on the use of discretionary powers by government officials. This will in turn reduce the cost of doing business at the port and boost government revenue.”
On the preponderance of overtime cargoes at the port, the STOAN Chairman appealed to the Nigeria Customs Service to expedite action in auctioning the goods as provided in the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA).
Space, she said, is vital at every port and “a situation where overtime cargoes are allowed to take up substantial space at the port is not healthy enough”.
“Customs is empowered by law to auction overtime cargoes so as to free up space in the port and also recover government revenue. Not auctioning those cargoes that have been in the port for more than a year does not serve the best interest of government and of the operator. I therefore wish to appeal to the Nigeria Customs Service to free up the space in the port by auctioning those overtime or unclaimed goods,” she further stated.
Haastrup commended the Nigerian Shippers’ Council for its various initiatives including the Inland Container Depots and the Truck Transit Parks.
“We hope these projects will come to fruition soon to support the logistics value chain in the country.,” she said.