It is no longer news that the import and export business in Nigeria is booming and growing by the day, given the available statistics. This is visible by the beehive of activities around the ports. So many international agencies have keyed into this sector of Nigeria’s net revenue and are smiling to the banks.
However assuring as this may sound, there is a negative trend in the operations of the system and that’s news. The proliferation of fraud and fraudsters with the mask of practitioners has become worrisome and posing as a bad omen to the hard earned reputation of all Nigerian shippers whose activities are being regulated under the watch of Nigerian Shippers Council.
Firstly, the process of clearing goods from the ports which hitherto was a smooth sail has been hijacked by fraudsters who extort huge sums of money from importers. Several unrealistic claims and tactically formulated tricks are imposed on them thereby making it a herculean task to clear goods . In most cases, goods are left uncleared due to bankruptcy emanating from these outrageous billings.
Secondly, the police prey on the clearing and forwarding agents using law as their launch pad and several erroneous interpretations of ‘due process’ in clearing goods. They feast on their errors and ignorance and make them part with huge sums of money which in turn reflects on the financial load of the importer.
Thirdly, permit me to say …the most horrible of the fraud chain, is the presence of impostors parading the four walls of the shipping business claiming to be importers .Their activities have taken a worrisome dimension as so many enterprising small and medium enterprises have folded up and their erstwhile owners sent back to their villages to start all over again.
This trend has brought to the fore the urgent need for sanity at the ports. For example, a member of a syndicate was nabbed in Lagos for posing as an importer and defrauding an unsuspecting businessman a whooping N10m naira. This amount sounds little to some very rich people but to a medium enterprise owner, it’s huge.
The accused posed as an importer of stoves and other household items and tricked the victim into the business and parting with the said sum claiming to be needed for the clearing…to cut the painful story short, the office used for the transaction was later found under lock and keys days after the money exchanged hands.
This brings to the fore the need for the Nigerian Shippers Council under its new management to restore the confidence of Nigerians in its operations, relationship with the community on awareness and sensitization and most of all, the credibility in its mandate.
Would the esteemed agency fold its hands and watch the shipping sector emerge a feeding ground for human and institutional rodents ?
To what extent do the patience of Nigerians get stretched to see results?The stage is set for the action. Deliver and get a standing ovation or disappoint Nigerians and get booed out of the stage.