Custom Agents to FG:  Terminal Operators Monopoly, Lack of Economic Regulator Fuelling Unwholesome Practice at Ports

Custom Agents to FG:  Terminal Operators Monopoly, Lack of Economic Regulator Fuelling Unwholesome Practice at Ports

Eromosele Abiodun

Customs agents in the country have called on the federal government to urgently review Nigeria Ports privatisation peocess, which they said was done without legal framework and economic Regulator.

The lack of legal framework, they stated, has made doing business in Nigerian ports cumbersome, lengthy and bedeviled with unwholesome practice, a development that has made the Ports the most expensive within West African sub-region.

The President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), the umbrella body of customs agents in the country, Lucky Amiwero, stated this in a petition to President Bola Tinubu.

According to the agents, “We are more concerned about the process of privatizing Nigerian Ports without legal framework and economic Regulator, which has constituted hindrance, that resulted to: gridlock on our roads, no holding bays, No trailer parks, no Government warehouses in the Ports, No regulator to check the private monopoly of the Terminal Operators,  these components where excluded from the Port privatization process.

“The Holding Bays that existed before 2005 within and around the Ports, was ceded out as land space to terminal operators, without providing alternatives, all the spaces used for various activity to enhance port activities, was ceded to Terminal Operators, forcing the Trucks, lorries to use the available Port access road to hold empty containers and wait as holding bay, awaiting access to the Port to load clients consignment. There are no government warehouse to place government cargoes , No trailer Parks , no Economic Regulator, no holding bay, duplication of charges and charges not tied to service is prevalent in our port system.”

The Nigeria port system, they added,  was created to serve the economy and meet the needs of Port users in a manner, which is economically and environmentally sustainable.

“However, After 19 years in to the lease agreement Tagged concession, there is the need to ascertain, if the objective of the Port Privatization, deceitfully Tag concession has been realized, in line with objective of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) , putting in mind the provision of Section 7(c ) of the Port Act 38 of 1999. The provision of Section 7-(c) of the Port Act clearly states:

Ensure the efficient management of port Operation, Optimal allocation and use of resources, diversification of sources of revenue and guaranteeing returns on its investment in order to contribute effectively to the well-being to Nigeria n society, “they said.

The agents stressed that the exclusion of the three components: Legislative Framework, Commercial/Economic Port Regulator and concession, from the inception of the port privatization process in 2005, created room for the present hindrance in the system, “the principle of concession was jettisoned, there is no provision of concession in Nigerian Ports Authority Act 38 of 1999, but only lease agreement for five years, as contained in Section 25-(2). The impediment makes our port one of the most expensive in the Globe, which gave the Terminal Operators and Shipping Companies advantage to manipulate and control the Ports System, that lead to bottleneck, Gridlock on port access roads, high cost of clearance and extreme private monopoly to the detriment of the economy.”

The agents therefore called on the federal government to set up a committee address the hindrance and impediment in the port system which attract high clearance cost, bottleneck, inconsistency and charges not tied to service collected by various organization.

They added, “The lengthy and cumbersome process excludes Nigerian Port as A load center, preferred Port or transshipment hub, due to the complexities inherent in our Port system, which makes our port the most expensive in the globe. The federal government should constitute committee of expert to review the shortfall inherent in the Port system, in other to reduce the cost of doing business, lengthy and cumbersome procedure and duplication of process and charges not tied to service, so as to attract back our cargo from neighboring port and foreign direct investment.”

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