Fresh facts have emerged on how Tincan Island Container Terminal (TICT) Apapa extorts shippers at the invoicing office of the terminal through the corrupt practice of coercing shippers and their representatives to part with as much as N2,000 to obtain ‘express’ Debit Notes (DN) per container. This was claimed by a victim at their invoicing office, claiming that when they refuse, TICT officials will subject them to standing at long queues for hours.
The disturbing trend which has become the norm at the terminal rather than the exception is as a result of the delay in raising DN and in order to avoid demurrage and excessive port charges, importers have resorted to bailing themselves. For those who have more than ten containers to clear, the extra N2,000 per container is considered, compared to the N6,000 per container demurrage charged.
While speaking to MMS Plus Weekly, Moses Nnadi, a shipper’s representative, recounts his ordeal, “we have constantly appealed to TICT to make their transactions electronic like some other terminals in Apapa, so as to remove human interface in their clearance process but they find it difficult, because they benefit from the demurrage that accrues to them as a result of the delay in processing DN. Every Monday you see more than two thousand people queuing up here for hours just to process DN.”
According to him, “they have only two or three men attending to a multitude of people and even if your goods is in Abuja you must come down to TICT Apapa to raise the DN, not only that, this gives agents an avenue to extort importers in paying the terminal charges since they have to estimate the cost of clearing a container but if the process is online the importer can easily access it and know how much exactly he has to pay. When a container starts to accrue demurrage we have to pay extra N5,000 to get the truck into the terminal to bring out the container and at the end of the day a container that at another terminal will cost not me more than N60,000 to clear, cost as much as N200,000 at TICT due to the delay .”
MMS Plus further gathered from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Astrokonnect Logistics Services, Mr. Isiaka Abdulkerim and a member of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), that TICT though has expanded in terms of infrastructure but its workforce is very low, adding that the office where the licensing office is located currently is very inconvenient.
In his words, “Shippers are accruing demurrage and agents are losing clients, they are crying out but nobody seems to be listening, shipping lines bringing cargo majorly from Asia and allocate their cargo to terminals, they partner with these terminal operators in countries where they do not have their own terminal and allocate their cargo to them. So in as much as the shipper has a choice of choosing the shipping line he prefers, he does not have much control over the particular terminal that will handle the clearing of his cargo.”
Isiaka lamented, “The shipping lines don’t have control over the activities of terminal operators and since it is of no cost implication to them they turn the other way while the shipper bears the brunt of the inefficiencies of the terminal. With other terminals at Apapa you can use your debit card to pay for your DN, get your receipt and go ahead with your cargo release process, like processing the Terminal Delivery Order (TDO) and booking for examination, at your convenience.
“You can make your payments at any of their designated banks but with the TICT you must use the bank in their terminal with only four cashiers, the delay is criminal and if you want to speed up your processing, you will have to grease some palms even at their bank. When the terminal and the bank attached to it resume in the morning by 9am they go on break from 12.30pm to 2pm and once it is 3pm they stop giving out invoicing tickets, it could take as much as three days just to obtain DN at TICT when other terminals are pursuing the 48hours target.” He asserted.
Isiaka further implored clearing agent associations to rise to the occasion and make their presence felt, as so far they have adopted a nonchalant outlook to the plight of shippers and their representatives, as if they are in a conspiracy with the terminal.
Meanwhile, a staff of the terminal who spoke to MMS Plus on the grounds of anonymity explained that the high number of human traffic at the terminal is as a result of the fact that there is usually a rush on the Monday after every last Saturday of the month, adding that the rush gradually disperses by the following day. He also hinted that the terminal has plans to go online in the nearest future.
All attempts to get the reaction of the management of the terminal as at the time of filling this report proved abortive as usual.