• Saturday, July 20, 2024
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BusinessDay

Importers count losses as vandals thrive at Tin-Can Port

Tin-Can Port makes history, receives largest container vessel to visit Lagos

Alexander Osaze is a businessman importing used cars, popularly known as ‘tokunbo’, into Nigeria through the roll-in and roll-out terminals in Tin-Can Island Port in Lagos.

As an auto dealer, Osaze has a showroom in Benin, the Edo State capital, where he sells foreign and Nigerian used cars.

Despite the concession of the cargo handling aspect of port operations to private terminal operators by the Federal Government, which among other things, is expected to improve the security of imported goods and properties at the port through the eradication of the activities of miscreants including ‘wharf rats’, the 45-year-old car dealer said he has continued have awful experiences when bringing in vehicles into the country.

“The activities of wharf rats are on the rise again, especially at Tin-Can Port because there is hardly any car that one imports without having to lose one or two accessories of the car. This is not too good for the image and ranking of Nigerian seaports,” Osaze told BusinessDay on the phone.

According to him, he recently lost a huge sum, which was almost all the profits he should have made from bringing in a 2012 Toyota Camry model car and a 2010 Toyota Corolla model car, as some of the important parts of the vehicles such as brain box, catalyst, and keyless sensor, among other accessories, were stolen from the two cars at the port.

He said he ended up spending over N2 million to replace the stolen parts in both vehicles and when the Customs tariff was added to the expenses on the vehicles, the business was no longer profitable to him.

“I have been in the car business for close to 10 years now and the activities of these wharf rats actually reduced at a certain time into the port concession but now, it is as if they are back in full force. The best thing is not to allow your vehicle to spend more than four days in the port terminal if you want the car to come out intact,” he added.

Kelvin Nnaemeka, a Lagos-based car dealer, shared a similar experience with our correspondent.

Nnaemeka said he had been bringing cars into the country without any issues until last year, when he brought in a 2012 Mercedes Benz 4Matic.

According to him, the car was badly vandalised such that the keyless sensor and some other accessories were stolen at the port.

He said he spent a lot of money to replace the accessories that were removed from the vehicle at the port.

BusinessDay gathered that some of the reported theft and car vandalism at the port were perpetrated by dockworkers, security officials and in most cases in collaboration with Customs-licensed agents.

Findings show that theft and vandalism of car parts thrive mostly in bonded warehouses as there have been several reported incidents of theft coming from Customs-licensed warehouses in Lagos where vehicles and containers are taken to for onward clearing by the importers.

Obi Nwabunwanne, a Lagos-based importer, told BusinessDay that stealing of imported cargo and destruction of vehicles at the port terminals are carried out by miscreants known as wharf rats.

According to him, wharf rats were having the upper hand during the pre-concession era such that many of them succeeded in stealing full container loads of imported goods with fake Customs papers.

He said that beyond stealing imported goods, fraudulent clearing agents connived with security men at the port terminals to “fly” containers from the port.

“Such agents usually approach the importer with the least quotation as charges for clearing the goods. I know many agents that have duped a lot of importers; they collect their money and use fraudulent means to fly their containers. Customs recently discovered at Tin-Can Port how agents fly containers,” he said.

Pointing out that the story of “flying” containers and destruction of vehicles is beginning to become rampant in the country, he warned importers to be careful of the people they contract to clear their goods from the port.

Confirming this, Taiwo Fatomilola, a member of the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, said that theft and vandalism of parts of imported vehicles have returned to Nigerian seaports as it also happens in bonded warehouses.

He said the perpetrators of such acts go as far as removing the car sensors, catalysts, stereo, batteries, and even brain box in some cases.

Some Nigerians have also gone on social media to recount their experiences while bringing in cars into Nigeria through the Tin-Can Island Port in Lagos.

Read also: LASG, NPA cut checkpoints along Apapa/Tincan axis

Echikwu Desmond Omale with the Twitter handle @desomale said: “They stole my 2017 Lexus RX 350 front and back parking sensors and the keyless sensor. It cost me 900k in total to buy and program. I didn’t even bother filing complaints because I have got a backlog of them that came to nothing.”

Another victim known as Olóyè said on his Twitter handle @Ol0ye that stealing at the Apapa and Tin-Can Ports has become so bad that he no longer ships cars with the original foot mats.

“Someone moved one of my car’s sensors. The same sensor was used to move it to the terminal yard from the ship that brought in the car. The agent went there and it was no longer there,” Olóyè tweeted.

Another victim with the handle @fairchild_ntity said that at the Tin-Can Port in Lagos, his car radio amplifier was stolen, and he had to spend 350,000 to buy another amplifier.

“Other accessories of the car were stolen. This is becoming too much,” he added.

The Nigerian Ports Authority recently completed the concrete fencing of Tin-Can Island Port and, according to Mohammed Bello-Koko, its managing director, the idea is to enforce access control in Tin-Can Port.

“We want to ensure we keep individuals who have no business in the ports from coming in through the enforcement of automated access control gates. We want to improve sanity in Tin-Can Port and to ensure that only people that have businesses are in the port,” he said.