Shippers bemoan cargo loss to neighboring countries

The Shippers’ Association of Lagos State (SALS) yesterday said Nigeria has lost a large number of shippers and vessels to neighboring countries due to the unfriendly policies of government.

SALS President, Rev. Jonathan Nicol said this yesterday at a one-day seminar on creating a new port order organised by the association in Lagos.

According to Nicol, part of the problems sending shippers to neighbouring countries especially Cotonou include high import duty and levies paid to Customs, bad state of roads, cumbersome documentation and clearing processes among others.

His words, “After payment of all duties and levies to Customs, the shipper makes little or nothing from his imports. FIve per cent VAT (value added tax) as computed sometimes is three times more than the value of the cargo and import duties combined. Five per cent is also paid to shipping companies and terminal operators making it 15 percent on one consignment.

“Bank interest rates is also included. Bank intrest rates should be brought down drastically to encourage investment.”

Nicol however said that for the country to achieve the new port order and for the Nigerian ports to compete favourably with other ports in West and Central Africa, the ports must be fully automated with 48 hours cargo clearance achieved.

“Customs queries should be minimized to a manageable proportion without allowing such cargo to remain indefinitely in the ports, roads leading to the ports are  constructed to accommodate heavy duty trucks.

“Government agencies in the port must be drastically reduced, human traffic must be drastically curtailed or prohibited except on invitation by the port operators.”

He said some government policies have allowed goods to be diverted to the ports of neighboring countries while the goods eventually find their ways into Nigeria through what he called “scientific smuggling.”

He said, “A lot more needs to be done quickly to save the Nigerian economy from dwindling and induced diversions of cargoes and promotion of scientific smuggling.

“Smuggling is one of the oldest means of evading customs duties in the world but it is due to the insensitivity of various government in the application of the World Trade Organisation charter on trade and tariff that facilitate smuggling.

“The new port order would allowed for more cargoes to come to the country, shippers who have left Nigeria for Cotonou will come back.”

He however called for the recognition of shippers’ associations in the country stressing that without the shippers, there will be no ports.

“As it is today, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council and the shippers’ associations in Nigeria are not revered the way they should be. The shippers’ association must be catered for adequately. We are not adequately protected as yet, we need to be funded.

“We are working to bring about sanity in our maritime industry. Government and its agencies are the major beneficiaries so, there is need to provide funds to promote and support the Shippers’ Association objectives as required by UNCTAD,” he said.

Earlier in his address, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Barr. Hassan Bello admitted that the Nigerian ports had over the years suffered cargo diversion to the ports of neighbouring countries.

Bello who was represented at the event by the Council’s Director of Inland Transport Service, Mrs Adebisi Adeagbo, said the appointment of the Council as the port economic regulator represented the effort of government to address the ills of the port system in Nigeria.

“Addressing the ills will surely create the enabling environment for wealth creation by all stakeholders using the ports,” he said.