- Demand official circular
By Kenneth Jukpor
Following the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd.) decision to reverse his former ban on the use of barges to evacuate cargoes from the seaports, barge operators and freight forwarders have commended the Customs leadership.
Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN), a group with over thirty operators licensed by Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), made this known during a joint press briefing with the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) in Lagos, yesterday.
Despite the commendation, the groups demanded an official circular by the management of Customs, noting that the initial ban was properly documented, hence, the reversal should equally be endorsed via due process.
The President of BOAN, Mr. Edeme Kelikume also admonished the Customs and other government agencies at the ports to hold adequate stakeholders engagement before making such decisions in future, rather than making hasty directives that would be reversed speedily.
According to him, barge operations at the seaports have been minimal throughout the week despite assurances from top Customs officers that the ban had been reversed since Tuesday, as some members await official directive before resuming their activities.
His words: “We are gathered here to commend the leadership of Customs for heeding to the cry of port stakeholders and swiftly retracting the decision to ban barge operations at the seaports. It is apt at a time when the nation is been faced with the threat of a pandemic, dwindling crude oil prices, fluctuating foreign exchange and a time when we need to have an efficient port sector that enhances international trade.”
“However, we are still awaiting the Customs circular on the reversal of the ban. We have heard it in the media and from engagements with senior officers of the NCS but there is need for the circular for documentation. We also expect that before other important and far reaching decisions are made, Customs and other agencies must make proper engagement with stakeholders.”
Following concerns that some operators have been involved in illegal cargo divertion via barges, he noted that the group had constituted an enforcement team which include officials of Navy, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and NPA to address this problem, assuring that the group would not hesitate to report such persons to the police.
He, however, assured Customs and other maritime stakeholders that barge operators would continue to play their role to achieve seamless port operations in the country and contribute to trade facilitation.
Also speaking at the press conference, the President of ANLCA, Mr. Tony Iju Nwabunike stressed that utilizing barges for cargo evacuation remained the most efficient alternative given the traffic congestion on the roads.
“Barges and railways are key components of an efficient port sector. We thank the Customs for the opportunity to use barges again given the level of gridlock on port access roads. While we commend the Customs CG, we also urge him to issue a circular on the new development,” he said.
He admonished freight forwarders not to abuse the privilege of barge operations to divert cargoes, even as he assured BOAN of continuous support and engagement to boost their activities at the nation’s port industry.