Nigerian seaports are very significant as they play crucial roles to the development of small and large scale enterprizes, generate substantial revenue for government through several agencies and also serve as tourist attraction.
Over time, the government’s attention had been drawn to the seaports by concerned stakeholders and industry experts as a result of the sensitivity and imperativeness to national security and economic development for the nation that is solely dependent on importation.
The high level of corruption, unprofessionalism, favoritism, nepotism and lack of patriotism have eaten deep into the port system, such that in the last three months two separate containers carrying pump-action rifles in hundreds have been seized at the Apapa and Tin Can ports. While both containers were said to have arrived from Turkey, the freedom accorded to foreigners to act as clearing agents has become worrisome.
This has seen the nation lose jobs that should have gone to indigenes whilst the practice also exposes the nation to import of fake/ substandard products, toxic waste, arms among others, especially as the Nigeria Customs Service has been crippled with the lack of scanners. The rhetoric question is- who should license a freight forwarder? Is it the dying Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarders in Nigeria (CRFFN) or the nonchalant Customs?
Unfortunately, enmity among the duo (CRFFN and Customs) as a result of this uneven competition has opened avenues for unqualified persons to continuously function as freight forwarders or clearing agents.
The Acting President of the National Council Managing Directors Licensed Cumtoms Agents (NCMDLCA) Mr. Ben Ndee called for indigenization when he spoke with MMS Plus newspaper recently.
“Nigeria has become a laughing stock. If you cross the border to Benin republic that is not up to Badagry local government and Festac town, you will shed tears. As a Nigerian, you cannot access their ports. Whatever you bring there has to be handled by an indigene. They will deliver the container to the border at whatever price agreed seamlessly.”
“It is when you get to the Nigerian border that trouble starts. Here, Lebanese, Pakistanis, Indians are clearing agents; even at Idumota they are ringing bells and marketing the imported goods. Go to Trade Fair you will see them. You call this a country? We are hopeless in this country. The things that cannot be practiced in Ghana or Benin Republic are allowed to happen in Nigeria’’ Ndee added.
Indigenization of the freight forwarding system could be the key to transforming the sector. No matter the level of greed or hardship occasioned by tough economic times, an indigene would always be thoughtful enough to rethink on his actions of smuggling in illegal goods capable of having destructive effects on the country.
A policy is required to ensure that only indigenes are allowed to be clearing agents. This policy holds massive benefits and as the great, Mahatma Gandhi puts it, “the policy has got to be pursued with apostolic zeal”.
By Oyeniyi Iwakun