AP Moller Terminals (APMT) Limited, Apapa , Lagos has blamed the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), for the recurring delay in cargo clearance, resulting to inefficiency in ports operations.
Speaking during a courtesy call by some management staff of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), the Chief Operating Officer of APMT, Mr. Lawrence Smith averred that the delay in cargo clearance is as a results of bottlenecks in customs operations.
According to Smith, “the physical examination and scanning machine system instituted by customs is the real cause of delay in cargo processing and evacuation and unlike other countries, when a vessel arrives at the port it is required that a customs operative must come on board to investigate the cargo. All this processes contribute to delay in cargo evacuation time.”
Earlier, the Executive Secretary of the NSC, Barr. Hassan Bello pointed out that freight forwarders and agents have lamented that terminal operators deliberately make them pay demurrage which is not caused by them, thereby making the cost of clearing cargo very expensive.
According to him “these freight agents feel that the terminal operators and the Customs service, make them victims by asking them to pay demurrage charges which they sometimes feel is a deliberate act to extort money from them.”
He assured APMT that “we are working for you to make sure that tariffs are not unnecessarily increased and if it must be done it has to follow due process, so we are here to listen to your problems and challenges so that we can take it to the Federal Government.”
He echoed that “one of the major reasons for port concession was to bring down the cost of doing business in Nigerian ports, so cost must come down in relation to services being rendered.”
Bello appealed to APMT to see the NSC as moderators and not regulators of the new port order, “this includes the Advanced Cargo Information System (ACIS), which has been approved for operations by the Federal Government through the NSC to facilitate efficiency at the ports.”
In his reaction to the allegation, the Public Relations Officer of NCS, Apapa Area 1 Command, Mr. Emmanuel Ekpa stated, “the two scanners, the fixed and the mobile scanners are working but workers operating them are on strike, and that is not the fault of customs”.
He further stated, “Boarding and Rummaging rule states that for any aircraft or vessel coming into the country a customs operative must go on board to make sure that arms and ammunition are not being brought into the country.”
According to him, “the NCS has a statutory responsibility to enforce the directives of the Federal Government, its rules and regulations and that is what the Customs is doing, so as long as Customs has not gone outside of this, then we are only doing our job and cannot be responsible for cargo delay.”