Our containers intake at KLT is ridiculously too low and it is affecting our revenue- Egdudin
The Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT) of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) unlike major commands in the Lagos area depends on the transfer of containers. The command which used to bubble with activities may have become a shadow of it old self following the eviction of some of the terminals by the authorities concerned. Comptroller Willy Egdudin, Customs Area Controller, KLT, speaks on the challenges facing the command, which he says have adversely affected the command’s revenue profile.
How has it been since your appointment?
When I came in, we studied the situation to know exactly what is happening and we found out that container traffic to the terminals here is not high enough. So I held meetings with the various stakeholders to find out the reasons why containers are not coming here. So we met and people offered different views that the officers here are not friendly and that the roads here are bad. But since I came, I’ve been able to sensitize my officers and I found out that the problem is not really with my officers. The access road which has been very problematic before now has given way because the bridge is being constructed now and the tankers, trucks that have been constituting nuisance in this place have been evacuated by the government. So now that all those impediments have given way, I expect that activities here too should pick up. But unfortunately, there are other hindrances too. More and more terminals have been leaving here, recently Duncan left, SDV left even before I came. Our main problem now is that just recently NPA has given eviction notice to Hull Blyth to vacate its property. And since the eviction notice, containers are not being transferred to phase 1. NPA has totally refused to allow any container to be transferred to phase 1, which has further reduced the volume of containers coming here. It means we are now depending on only three terminals, phase 2, 3 and 4. Although we have Brawal, it doesn’t bring containers, a ship might just come in without any container or at most 20, 30, 40 containers in a vessel, although they bring in some bulk cargoes like papers but the duty on paper is minimal and the revenue we realize from all of these things is not high enough.
What is the major reason for shutting down the operations of these major terminals, Hull Blyth and SDV?
Well like Duncan, they are been starved of containers and the major ports are telling them that until they are part of them they will not stem any consignment to them. And you know in business, one needs to get return on investment. I saw reasons with them and true to that since I came here no vessel has been stem down there, they have remained fallow. But Hull Blyth has its own vessel but their problem is having a place. The place they are occupying has being taken away by NPA. NPA has evicted them and the reason they gave was that Hull Blyth has not been paying their rent but Hull Blyth say it is not true that they have been paying there rent, they even gave me some of the documents as proof that they have been paying rent.
Apart from the non transfer of containers to the terminals, what other challenges do you have to contend with?
As I said, if the containers are there, will we definitely collect the revenue, but the containers are being stemmed down. Apart from the fact that enough containers are not being allocated here, the few ones that are being allocated to us are being stemmed down in the various ports, in Apapa and Tin Can. Just last week I have to write to MOL shipping line requesting for their explanation on why of about 300 containers allocated to us only 133 is being transferred here and almost 248 are being stem down. They have not given us any reasonable excuse. What they have told us is that those containers are on fast track and the importers have requested that these containers be taken to Apapa. So I’m still trying to resolve this with some of the area controllers so that whenever containers are allocated to us, they should allow the containers to be transferred to us so that we too can meet our revenue targets. Although, the Area Controllers do not have any significant role to play in this, it is the shipping companies that will tell you that the owners of the containers are on their neck and that they want their containers to be stem down. But I think they don’t need to stemmed down these containers without any reason because the containers we know that can be stemmed down are refrigerated containers and probably pharmaceutical containers too.
How would you rate the level of activities on the scale of 1 to 10?
Without being told, you can see it is very glaring in a situation where you are getting less than a 1000 containers in a month as against 3000 to 4000 containers in a month. So what we are having now is ridiculously too low. That is why I said there has been a low activity at KLT. It can’t be worse than this but it can improve. We are praying that if Hull Blyth could regain back their terminal, things would improve. I have been in touch with them that here is need for them to step up the number of containers that come to their terminal and they have been listening to me. They said they are planning to enter a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a shipping company like Green Line so that they can be bringing enough containers to this place. If that happens, I believe our revenue we surely go up. I have also been discussing with them at Brawal, because Brawal used to be one of the biggest shipping line, so if people no longer patronize them it means something is wrong or either their freight charges is not competitive enough. So I have discussed with them so that they too can increase their container traffic here.
Apart from these terminal operators, do you think there will be need for intervention from the customs high command?
There is little the Service can do in this area because customs does not control container traffic. We only collect the duties that are due to the federal government and ensure that the consignments are safe.
Can you give us a rundown of your activities in the last quarter?
In the last quarter, in terms of revenue generation, between January to March 2012 we collected N7, 577, 371.472 while in the corresponding period last year, they recorded 7,450, 155.835 which means our collection this year is actually higher than that of last year in spite of the fact that SDV that has been contributing more than 50 percent of our revenue is no longer with us. Assuming SDV is still with us, I think the collection would have been higher than this may be they would have even helped us to meet our target. But we are actually doing our best here to see that we collect maximum revenue.
How the relationship between officers here and customs agents?
Well, it has being very cordial. We’ve had meetings with the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agent (ANLCA), National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarder (NAGAFF) and the other associations. So often times we have meetings so that we can identify what the problems are and know how we can resolve some of these issues that bothers on the command.
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