Poor transport infrastructure around the ports such as narrow exit gates, multiple agencies coupled with long cargo dwell time among others have been identified as major factors responsible for the lingering congestion at Nigerian ports.
According to concerned stakeholders, some clearing agents allegedly use port terminals as warehouses pending when they complete their long clearing process with Customs, thereby compounding congestion at the ports.
Besides, accusing fingers are also pointing at the activities of multiple agencies at the point of exit from the ports in Lagos for the lingering congestion, a development that prompted a ministerial committee raised by the Minister of Transport, Idris Umar, recently.
The Chief Executive Officer of a maritime firm who spoke with journalists on condition of anonymity advised the federal government to investigate thoroughly reasons why some agents prefer to leave their goods at the Terminals instead of opting for a warehouse outside the ports.
The source said: “I can tell you without any fear of contradictions that the agents and customers have discovered that it is cheaper for them to use the terminals. I want to use this opportunity to appeal to the government through the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) to transfer long staying cargo to Customs Bonded facilities for auction.”
According to the chief executive officer, there is also need to revisit the issue of multiple agencies at the port.
“There are multiple agencies at the ports. After leaving the terminals, containers are held up at the exit points. This is uncalled for and unfortunate. Government should eradicate these agencies from the exit gate. Relevant agencies should be compelled to work 24 hours in the interest of our Ports and Nigeria’s economy generally,” said the source.
While commending efforts by the present administration to tackle the problems of congestion at the ports, the source said the first step to take is “transfer all long staying cargo to Customs facilities and put them up for auction.”
At the end of the meeting raised to proffer solution to the reported congestion, Umar explained that once a container had been booked for examination, any of the parties to the examination who is found responsible for delay in the clearance process would henceforth bear the cost of rent and demurrage.
The minister also promised to request the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala to direct the Comptroller General of Customs, Alhaji Dikko Nde Abdullahi to resume the rerouting of containers from scanning to physical examination in order to ease port congestion.
“Once a terminal has a backlog and it is more than it can handle, the next vessel on the queue should be stemmed to the terminal next to it, in the event the next terminal cannot handle the vessel, it should be stemmed to an off-dock terminal,” said Umar while reading through the committee’s resolution.”
He added: “The working hours for examinations will henceforth be between the hours of 9am and 3pm; including Sundays and public holidays.”
According to the committee chaired by the Executive Director, Marine and Operations, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) David Omonibeke: “All parties in the examination chain must ensure that they are present for examination, while the Nigeria Customs Service should maintain a timetable for officers scheduled for examination.
“Except by an order of court, any container examined but declared for detention by any security agency, shall be formally reported to the Nigeria Customs Service by the security agency issuing the detention order.”