Apapa CAC, Edike, sacks ‘illegal’ Enforcement Unit at port gate
• As Port Manager, Customs chief witness gate operation during unscheduled visit
A Customs Enforcement Unit operating without authorisation at the exit gate used by three of the terminal operators inside the nation’s premier port, the Lagos Port Complex (LPC), Apapa, was on Tuesday directed to immediately vacate the location by the Customs Area Controller (CAC), Apapa Area Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Comptroller Charles Edike.
Edike and the LPC Port Manager, Mr. Nasir Anas Mohammed, who paid an unscheduled visit to the area, had stumbled on the Unit made up of six Customs men operating from a makeshift container located near the gate used by trucks exiting the terminals of Greenview Development, APM Terminals and ENL Consortium.
The duo had observed that containers coming out of the gate were stopped and rechecked by the Unit’s officers; a situation which created a backlog of traffic giving rise to truck congestion inside the three major terminals.
“Immediately the Unit was dismantled by the CAC, trucks started moving quickly out of the terminals. The issue is that those officers were not supposed to be there. They were supposed to be inside the terminal with their colleagues where the clearing is done. Being outside the terminal means duplication of what has been done inside,” a clearing agent who witnessed the operation but did not want his identity revealed, informed SHIPS & PORTS DAILY.
Prior to visiting the terminal exit gate, the Port Manager and CAC had made a stopover at the main port gate where they observed the operation of both NCS and Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) officials for about 30 minutes.
“I believe the truck queue that had built up creating traffic congestion inside the port making it difficult for goods that have been cleared to move out prompted the two men to visit the gate unannounced to find out what really was wrong. But immediately they arrived at the gate, it was like magic. Everyone sat up and all the bottlenecks created by their officers suddenly disappeared,” the eyewitness told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY.
To further facilitate the movement of trucks in and out of the Port, the LPC Port Manager reportedly ordered the utilization of all the gates from today while the Customs boss promised to post his men to man them. The clearing agent, who witnessed the visit of the two senior government officials, commended them for their novel approach to managing the traffic congestion in and around the major port facility.
He said that if such initiative is sustained, congestion will become a thing of the past at the port, as, according to him, “most of the problems are man-made.”
A report released last week on Nigerian ports by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption (TUGAR), and the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), identified high rate of physical examination, corruption and bureaucratic bottlenecks as major factors responsible for the high cost of doing business at Nigerian ports.
The report, which was presented to stakeholders at a validation meeting held in Apapa last Thursday, revealed that an importer or agent will require a minimum of 79 signatures of government officials to clear his/her goods at the nation’s gateways.