Apapa Gridlock: Importers Incur N100bn Demurrage, Storage Fees in Five Days

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•Truckers reject new task force

Eromosele Abiodun

Five days after THISDAY exclusively reported that over 500,000 containers are trapped at the Lagos ports owing to the intractable Apapa gridlock, the situation has worsened with shippers incurring N20 billion on demurrage and storage charges daily.

Customs agents who spoke to THISDAY yesterday said importers pay N25, 000 as demurrage per container a day and another N15,000 as storage fees to terminal operators excluding 7.5 per cent value added tax (VAT).

This amounts to N12.5 billion daily demurrage charges on the 500,00 trapped containers and N7.5 billion storage fees.
At the close of business today, importers would have incurred a massive N100 billion on demurrage and storage fees in just five days.

This is despite the marching orders given by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, when he visited Apapa last week that the port access roads be cleared immediately
THISDAY had reported that no fewer than 500,000 containers laden with raw materials belonging to manufacturing companies and traders are currently trapped at the Tin Can Island Port, Lagos.
However, respite seems not in sight for importers as truckers have rejected the plan by the federal government to deploy 200 security agents to restore law and order in Apapa.

The Chairman of Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Remi Ogungbemi, told THISDAY yesterday that truckers would reject any task force because they are only coming to extort them.
Speaking on the demurrage being incurred on trapped containers, the National Vice President of Association of Nigerian Licensed Custom Agents (ANLCA), Dr. Kayode Farinto, called on the federal government to resolve the crisis.

He said: “Our cargos are trapped in the port despite the fact that they have been exited. The federal government should do the needful because the situation is getting out of hand. I cannot quantify our losses at this period.

“Demurrage is being paid on daily basis and sadly it will be transferred to the final consumers. We pay demurrage to shipping companies and storage to terminal operators. We pay N25,000 per container for demurrage and N15,000 for storage and 7.5 per cent value added tax (VAT).”
He added that the 200 security operatives the federal government promised to send to Apapa to restore law and order hasn’t been seen since the promise was made.

“The situation remains the same; Tin Can Isand port congestion is getting worse. The government should be alive to its responsibility, the only way out of the Apapa crisis is intermodal transportation system. The government should connect rail to Tin Can Island port to ease the gridlock and assist the various importers by giving them subventions to ameliorate the effect of recession because by January to February the level of import will drop by about 40 per cent,“ he said.

On his part, the President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Mr. Lucky Amiwero, who corroborated Farinto’s view, said the government should declare Apapa a disaster zone.

He said the federal government should urgently stop demurrage fee and declare all cargo rent free until the crisis is resolved.
Apart from the demurrage charges, he said Nigeria, which controls over 70 per cent of the cargoes that come to West Africa, is losing huge resources to Togo, Ghana, Benin and Ivory Cost where Nigeria-bound cargoes are being diverted to.

“The federal government must declare Apapa a disaster zone and appoint a minister for ports. As it is now, nobody is in charge; we don’t know who is in control. The port is in disarray; the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) have failed to provide scanners, they don’t even know what they are doing. Nobody is interested in resolving the Apapa crisis and Nigerians are the ones who will pay for all the abnormal charges,” he added.
Also, the truckers said the plan to deploy 200 security personnel in Apapa was a misplacement of priority.

“It is uncalled for and very unfortunate. We are shocked that the only solution that government has to proffer is to set up another task force. We have had over five different task forces on Apapa; they come to do what they can do and impose all manner of levies on truck owners and go. That government is trying to set up another task force baffles me and I want to say, it is not the best, it’s never the way forward.

“I was thinking by now the government should realise that the port can no longer contain the volume of activity that it is being burdened with. The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has promised to deploy electronic call up system; this is what we are all waiting for. The NPA has partnered a company called TTP Limited and they plan to deploy the system, that is what the government should focus on. I am not sure the Minister of Transportation was properly briefed on the matter.

“Task force is never the solution, what we need is an automation system that will have no human interference. Even if the government like, let them bring one million security men, it will not solve the problem. I am sure if the minister was properly briefed that we have been having task forces without solution, he would not have even contemplated the idea.

“However, any attempt to bring another security operatives that will be unleashing terror and extorting truck owners, we will not accept it. It is those people that are benefiting from the corruption and rot in the system that have advised the minister to set up another task force.

They have misled the minister; they are mischievous and want the status quo to remain.
“It is uncalled for, with the modern technology that is being deployed around the world, why must we be lagging behind? Apart from the NPA electronic call-up system, we have come up with our solution that will have no human interference but because we were seen as nobodies, they rejected our solution. I want to stress that setting up of any task force can never work because it hasn’t worked in the past. We will not allow it. We don’t want it because they see truck owners as a source of revenue and an opportunity to enrich their pocket,” Ogungbemi stated.