The President General of the Nigerian Association of Air Freight Forwarders and Consolidators (NAFFAC), Prince Bakare Adeyinka has given reasons why there are too many empty containers as well as too many empty container terminals littered across Lagos state in recent time.
Speaking in an interview with our correspondent in Lagos recently, Adeyinka observed that between 2018 and 2019, practitioners recorded high volume of cargo coming into Nigeria as a result of the Dangote Refinery that was ongoing.
He contended that as at the time the cargoes were coming, Nigerian ports and handlers were not prepared for that volume saying, “I can bet you that if you go out and survey within the city, there is container depot almost in every part of Lagos because the volume of cargo that is coming in are not equal to the volume of cargo that is going out and because of that a vessel comes in with a heavy load and goes out with probably a little export and the system is not encouraging export.”
“So that is why you have plenty of empty containers and empty containers terminal all over and that will continue until that project is completed and commissioned and even after that project is commissioned, you will continue to have some chemicals to run the company. So, we are still going to experience that multiple container terminals and so much empty containers because the port is overstretched and now we are having border closure.
“You see many terminals operators complaining that their terminals are overstretched because of the border closure because other cargoes that were supposed to come through the land borders are now coming through the port and the port is already overstretched as we speak”, he added.
Asked whether the ill-preparedness of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) as at the time it took over scanners from the Destination Inspection Agents by the time it did was not contributory to the congestion at the port presently, the NAFFAC boss was quick to say that, “the truth is, I don’t think there is anything wrong in asking customs to take over the functions of the Destination Inspection Agents as at that time and honestly, the transfer was made successfully and it took off on a very good note and we were doing it but the argument then was that the money being paid to the inspection agents as commission could also be used by the government and they have the manpower and they were doing that successfully.”
“But aside that, the situation now is that the volume of what was handled at that time cannot be compare with what is being handled now. One officer that is supposed to handle two or three containers will handle between thirty and forty containers in a day and he may become exhausted and if you call him the next day, he is not available or he is tired and we don’t have scanners and that is why you see people coming up with the idea of having scanners deployed inside the port so that it could reduce the pressures we have on these officers.
“So, that is the basis for that concession not because customs was not doing what it was supposed to do, no! But because the volume of cargo we got between the year 2017 when the project cargo started and now increased by one hundred percent.”
On the need for the recruitment of more officers to ease the burden of work on the present crop of officers, he said, “You could get to the port and ask officers how many containers they examined two years ago and how many containers they examine today. You and I can also check how many dry ports have been added within the last three to four years that were not there before and how many equipment have customs procured within the last three to four years.
“In fact, when you look at the ratio, you will be realized that more than six dry ports have been added of recent that has not been there before and we have other terminals and airports coming up, we have the Murtala Mohammed International Airport command that is having a new Controller. It is a new unit entirely that needs to be equipped with the office of Controller, DC and so on that was not in existence before. MM2 is also there with its own Controller and Port-Harcourt International Airport with Egypt Air coming up with its own cargo terminal now. It is going to add to that, Abuja, the traffic is increasing. So, once you agree with that fact, automatically, you have to more officers which we are not having before.”
Photo: NAFFAC President General, Prince Bakare Adeyinka.
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