The problem at the port presently is a collective problem because it originates from the operators and government agencies in the sector. On the part of the government, there is a need for infrastructural development, road infrastructure has to be fixed to enable easy port access as it is in other parts of the world. The access road to the port is a huge problem; it takes about two weeks for a truck to load and come back to offload cargo. This is a huge deficit and problem in the cargo clearance chain. There is an urgent need for the government to fix the port access roads and also have a mechanism on ground that will ensure adequate maintenance, so that the roads do not fall into a deplorable state as it is presently. Also, most of the shipping companies do not have holding bay; this also undermines the cargo clearance chain. For instance, when some shipping companies’ vessels are not around, their empty cargoes would not be accepted and when the empties are not offloaded, cargoes ready for delivery cannot be picked by the trucks already conveying empties that have been refused acceptance. So, shipping lines should have holding bays for their empties and not to wait till when they have a cargo and then take the empties as escort outside the country. Also, the numerous government agencies inside the port, really don’t have to be there. This is because most of them have overlapping functions. When you have a situation where each of these agencies insist on carrying out a function that has already been taken care of by another agency, the entire cargo clearance process is lengthened. Meanwhile demurrage is being placed on the cargo. If all these government agencies must be present at the port, proactive intelligenceshould be employed in the discharge of their duties. That way, there is an interception taking place even before the cargo clearance process begins. All the stakeholders involved in the cargo clearance should play according to ethical, standard and global conventions in the maritime sector as is obtainable globally. Cargo clearance is a veritable tool for economic generation for the government. Government and all the stakeholders should play their roles, Nigeria is depreciating and something urgent needs to be done to make our economy grow and be a global power house. This is why we rarely hear the phrase ‘Giant of Africa’ anymore. The giant needs to be awakened in all ramifications; institution should be built and not great men. Nigeria has built several great men, let Nigeria build its institution especially in the maritime sub-sector of the economy.
I think the Nigeria Customs Service is unable to compete favourably with its counterparts globally in terms of a speedy cargo clearance process because of the numerous documentation involved. In advanced countries, the cargo clearance process is paperless. In addition, the government agencies at the port do not trust themselves; all these can never happen in a civilized country.
The topmost problem is the road rehabilitation going on at the moment and the human elements that are causing delay in cargo clearance, lack of synergy between stakeholders and clearing agents at the port. It will be better if all the agencies are collaborating with each other to as to improve the clearance process.
There are bottlenecks in the clearance process on the part of Customs officers. They should be called to order because they are not adhering to the 48-hour clearance procedure. They accuse clearing agents and importers of fake documentation and yet the agents that have proper documents are not attended to. Customs officers should be urged to hasten their duties at the port. Another major cause of delay in clearance at the port is the rehabilitation of the road; I urge the government to hasten the work on the port access road.