States and federal governments and other importers using the seaports have abandoned cargoes worth several billions of Naira at various terminals across the nation’s seaports.
Investigations over the weekend had shown that about 6,500 cargo laden containers were abandoned at the Lagos and Porthacourt ports that are mainly owned by the government and partly by private companies.
It was gathered that why about 5,000 overtime cargoes were abandoned at the Lagos port complex, about 1,500 containers are abandoned at the Onne seaports, Port Harcourt, Rivers state.
While some of the containers in the Lagos ports are for power, agriculture and other federal and state government intervention projects, few are for private operators.
Baffled by the abandonment, the West African Container Terminal (WACT) had complained to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) that overtime cargoes had taken over 80 percent of the terminal yards’ occupancy.
But, despite the NPA MD’s appeal to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to begin on the spot assessment of the abandoned cargoes, nothing is yet to be done.
The MD, Hadiza Bala-Usman had said, “We have noted that a lot of containers have been abandoned by consignees at Onne port. The WACT terminals is overflowing with containers we as agencies of government are always inundated by reports that our ports are not efficient but we are discussing with the Nigeria Customs on what we need to do to auction some of these cargoes because as a responsible consignee, you can’t come into this country and abandon your consignment.”
However, speaking exclusively to newsmen, a manager in one of the terminals in Lagos complained about the cargoes which he said some had used up to 12 years in the seaports thereby eating up spaces and fuelling cargo congestion.
According to him, government must find a solution to auctioning the cargoes for effective operation of the seaport.
The manager who craved anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to the press said while about 30% of the overtime cargoes were imported by the federal government another 20% were imported by contractors on behalf of the government.
He stated that the containers were abandoned at the seaports mostly because of change of government and administration.
“Most of the containers are projects of the federal and states government. They also have contractors that import on their behalf and abandoned them at the ports for reasons best known to them but mainly because of lack of continuity.
“The oldest of the cargoes has spent 4063 days that is equivalent to 12 years in our terminal and the abandoned containers have occupied about 15% of the yard capacity.”
He also urged the customs service to fine-tune the auction process so as to allow the evacuation of the cargoes out of the port to free up space for fresh import.
Also speaking, the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria, (STOAN) has said that overtime cargoes are taking up commercial spaces in the port and called the Government to intervene in the matter.
STOAN’s chairman, Princess Vicky Haastrup, said that if the issue of overtime cargoes was not tackled as soon as possible, terminal operators will be running their businesses at a loss.
Haastrup also said that because there are so many laden containers in the terminals, the space to take empty containers is limited, explaining that terminal operators make more money when they have more space to do container operations.
She stated: “Let the Nigeria Customs Service come and auction these overtime cargoes because they occupy commercial spaces in our terminals. If that is taken care of, they can dedicate a large space for empty containers.
“Right now, because they have so many laden containers, there is a limit to the number of empty containers they can take.
“Not accepting empty containers into the terminals is not wilfully done by terminal operators, no responsible terminal operator will want to refuse empty container.
“If we can turn our spaces around as often as possible, we will make more money, I am telling you. The more container operation we do the more money we make. The more space you have and you are able to turn around your space the more money you make.
“It does not augur well for anybody to keep containers out there; you actually make more money when you handle more ships and more containers overtime.”
Also, the President, National Council of Managing Director of Licenced Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero argued that there is need to ensure that overtime cargoes are transferred from the ports to government warehouse to decongest the port terminals.
Amiwero said that the Federal Government needs to remove the uncleared and seized cargoes to government warehouse as statutorily provided, in order to decongest the ports and raise revenue.
Amiwero said that Nigeria Customs is statutorily authorised to after 15 days or such time, to transfer all uncleared goods from the terminal to the government warehouse.
“Customs is to charge rent on all goods deposited in government warehouse as contained in section 20-(b) which clearly states the rent to be paid while goods are deposited in Customs area provided by the government,” Amiwero added.
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