By Kenneth Jukpor
Aggrieved by the unending queues of trucks and tankers seen at Lagos ports and several empty container holding bays, the Chairman of Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) at Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT), Comrade Goddy Sewa Soleji has admonished shipping companies in the country to develop empty container holding bays to cater for their inflow of empty containers.
The veteran Customs broker, who was speaking with MMS Plus newspaper at KLT on Thursday last week, lamented that the traffic at Lagos ports was primarily a dysfunction of shipping companies in terms of the structuring of their container holding bays.
“Most of the holding bays of the shipping companies in the country can’t take up to 1000 containers yet the companies know that their inflow of containers is more than 1000. Most of the containers here in KLT were cleared from other ports and the empty containers were directed to this holding bay but the facility can’t take the containers” he lamented.
Highlighting this as the major challenge to customs brokerage practice in Nigeria, the KLT Chapter boss lamented that these erring shipping companies should be punished for frustrating shipping and other related activities in the country.
He blamed truckers for abandoning containers on the roads; an act which have landed most agents in fracas with terminal operators and shipping companies over exorbitant demmurage.
Comrade Soleji also admonished the Nigerian Police to desist from the act of intercepting containers at the ports.
Soleji lamented that the unfortunate trend had become popular in Lagos even as he stressed that Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) primarily functions as the revenue collector while the Police functions as the security agent in-charge of safety of lives and properties.
“Police should go back to the functions outlined in their Act. The Police Act doesn’t in anyway authorize the Police to intercept containers either at the point of release or an already released container. This duty is solely for Customs” he said.
Similarly, the Customs National Public Relations Officer (PRO), Joseph Attah maintained that it was the statutory function of the Customs to examine and clear containers and also intercept when there is any suspected infraction.
However, he opined that it may not be out of place for the Police upon credible intelligence stop containers for investigation in order to curb crime.
He emphasized the existing spirit of inter-agency collaboration where the customs as well as any patriotic Nigerians upon credible information can assist in the fight against crime.
Soleji also lamented that the challenges facing custom brokerage in Nigeria was increasing at an alarming rate.
“The challenges customs brokers face in this country are too numerous and it continues to increase by the day. The problem includes the incessant increase in trucking fares, foreign exchange, port access roads, demurrage caused by truckers and terminal operators most times, then you also have the problem of holding bays” he said.
He beckoned on the Federal Government to quickly intervene, noting that the frivolous charges and bottlenecks in port business would trickle down to the final consumer because the importers must pass the cost burden to the final price of their goods or services.