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Here are issues affecting import, export trade in Nigerian ports

Presently, there are myriads of issues affecting import and export trade negatively in Nigerian ports, starting from the day the goods arrive to when they are cleared from the port, shippers have said.

They listed the issues to include failure of shipping companies to receive empty containers, high cost of transporting containers, and collection of official and unofficial payments by government agencies among others.

Jonathan Nicol, president, Shippers of Shippers Association of Lagos State, who stated that shippers lose money even after clearing their cargoes due to the fact that shipping companies have failed to retrieve empty containers, said imports and exports trade have continued to suffer in recent time.

According to him, manufacturers and shippers suffer huge clearing bills while getting their consignments delivered to them.

For instance, trucking has become another challenge such that shippers pay as much as N1 million to transport container to a nearby city like Ibadan while local trips cost between N350,000 to N800,000 which is unacceptable.

“Today, trade facilitation no longer exists in our ports. Some agencies are making so much money from shippers instead of advising government to control excesses at the port. The Federal government agencies are sapping shippers dry through official and unofficial compulsory payments made on every consignment,” Nicol said in the statement sent to BusinessDay.

Nicol, who stated that clearing cargo in Nigerian ports is eight times more than the cost of the goods, said that in clearing goods, shippers must get extra funds for distribution to corrupt platforms in the ports, which is one of the reasons goods are abandoned at the port.

“Shippers do not have a seamless method put in place by government to exit their goods from the port. There are trucks everywhere within and around the vicinity especially along the corridors to the port. Places such as FESTAC, Mile 2 and The Marine Beach Bridge have now become holding-bays, and as long as trucks park on top of bridges, life span of our bridges will continue to be threatened,” he explained.

He however said that delaying cargo in the port is not good for anyone, especially volatile cargoes used in the soft drink industries, and the reckless handling of such cargoes can have a very devastating effect on the port.

The renowned shipper also disclosed that vessels are now leaving Nigeria to other African countries to discharge their cargo especially those on Time Charter contracts.

Stating that without the cargo, which shippers bring, there will be no port, he said importers and exporters should be respected as nation builders, self-made individuals and progressive corporate entities, which they are.

“No shipper would want to abandon his cargo if clearing expenses is within his budget. The regulators of our ports have a dual role to play in protecting the interest of shippers, and making sure goods brought into the country are cleared promptly by stopping harsh government’s import policies,” he suggested.

He further disclosed that Shippers Association of Lagos State is already discussing with its counterparts in the country, and will support any action that will bring economic sanity within the clearing and logistics chain.

While noting that the alignment of major stakeholders to checkmate infractions, such as port corruption, violations of rules of engagement and enforcements, show that government agencies have nothing to offer anymore to the trading public, he said the alignment will be a wakeup call to all including importers, who declare something different from what is found in their boxes.

He called on government to remove domestic items from prohibition list because seizing importers goods, is draconian. “Import restrictions should be restructured and actions that will forcibly take cargo from shippers and auctioned privately, should be abolish because shippers need to be encouraged.”

Nicol, who pointed out the need to reduce costs of doing business at port, said government should muster political will to remove all the so-called government security agencies in the port, with the exception of the Nigeria Customs Service, which is already a para-military outfit.

“If that is done, people can now hold Customs responsible for any failure in the Port. Since, the port was concessioned; the security of the port should be left with the concessionaires with the Nigeria Police patrolling the port because the port is a very high risk security area,” he said.

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