The founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Boniface Aniebonam has exonerated the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) from contributing to the high cost of doing business at the nation’s seaport.
Aniebonam who disclosed this in a chat with newsmen in Lagos recently stated that people tend to look at the customs as the problem whereas customs was doing everything possible to facilitate trade in a most cost effective manner.
He however blamed the development on the activities of the shipping companies and terminal operators whom he said were responsible for the high costs incurred by importers and their agents in the course of clearing their consignments from the ports in their quest to maximize profit.
“I am speaking from the angle of an eye witness account as an operator. You may be surprised to know that a forty footer container, the total duty that customs may be collecting may be around four hundred thousand; demurrage on that container could reach three million. If I take you to the shipping companies, you are at their mercy; they charge you whatever they want to charge you, not to talk of the terminal operators”, he said.
He recalled that Section 31 of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) spelt out the dwell time of cargo at the ports even as he explained that cargoes coming into the ports should not have more than 28 days to stay before it is moved out of the port area to the outer terminals.
“Who is doing that now? Nobody is doing that, even when you demand for your cargo to be moved from that conventional port to the outer terminals, it’s not done because the demurrage inherent, somebody is benefitting from it. Nigerians are losing hell of money. If these cargoes were refused to move out of port control, then it means that the cargoes are constructively warehoused. What will be their ultimate? It becomes revenue because all these cargoes, once they were refused exit, they become constructively warehoused. It is the duty of the government and terminal operators as the case may be to move them.
“I do know especially with the various committees we have had on this enabling business environment with the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NAGAFF has consistently hit on this, it is not done. The MD has done everything possible, it is not done. We are all aware that the Shippers’ Council is still in court about arbitrary charges and all that, the collection is going on. I now ask, don’t we have government in our country?
“Going down to PTML access control, you are telling me about ease of doing business, the access control into PTML, just go there and see how Nigerians are being treated like animals. The operating condition is well defined; it is only the Nigerian Ports Authority that has the powers to grant access into the ports or terminals. If you are a freight forwarder, it means that your name must be in the register of freight forwarders and with the access permit given by NPA, it is based on that, you have access into the ports.
“But go to PTML, money is imposed on Nigerians to pay. It is like asking a lawyer to pay money to go into the court. The payment is on and it is ongoing and nobody is talking. We raised the issue, I asked questions; honestly, the truth of the matter is that our President must take a proper look now on those he appoints”, he noted.
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