From left: National Secretary, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents ANLCA, Mukaila Abdulazeez, National President of the association, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike and National Auditor, Ozo Chukwurah during a media briefing in Lagos, Tuesday.

Francis Ezem

The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents ANLCA has commenced moves towards a holistic solution to the myriads of operational challenges bedeviling Nigeria’s seaports, with a view to making them user-friendly and competitive with their peers in West Africa.

Recall that the country’s seaports especially those in Lagos-the Lagos Ports Complex and Tin Can Island Ports Complex, both in Apapa which are also the country’s two biggest cargo ports have in the last few years been grappling with gridlocks on their access roads and both cargo and vessel congestion, a development that has led to high dwell time of cargo and long vessel turnaround time.

National President of the association, Hon. IJU Tony Nwabunike, who spoke during a press conference, Tuesday in Lagos, disclosed that top executive members of the association including some chapter chairmen paid separate visits to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Boss Mustafa and Minister of State for Transport, Senator Gbemi Saraki.

He also disclosed that no fewer than 2,000 trucks laden with various types of imported goods belonging to some members of the association and other stakeholders are currently trapped at Seme Border alone following the decision of the Federal Government to shut the nation’s land borders with some West African neighbours.

According to him, the meetings had become necessary to begin to address most of the operational challenges being faced in the industry from top government levels in order to find lasting solutions in the short, medium and long term.

It was further gathered that in addition to the problems associated with the gridlock and congestion which come with delays in cargo delivery with the attendant high cost of operations due to the payment of demurrage and other related charges, the two separate meetings also focused on the arbitrary imposition of charges and fees by the terminal operators and shipping lines, among several others.

“As stakeholders, we need to begin to engage government officials at very top levels on the need to address these myriads of operational challenges confronting the country’s seaports with a view to finding lasting solutions to these problems and challenges.

” As we speak, many of our members are suffering and dying every day in the course of carrying out their legitimate businesses in their own country and we will not sit and pretend that nothing is happening and that is why we have come so that together, we can find lasting solutions to these problems and challenges.

“Before this visit, we conscientiously and painstakingly discussed with all our members and have come up with almost all the challenges confronting them in the course of delivering their clients’ import and export cargo. So far the following problems/challenges still militate against trade facilitation.

“The ports’ access roads are of major concern. Repairs on these roads should be hastened as every passing day brings sorrow and hardship to our members and other Nigerians that use the roads. Multiplicity of government security agencies at the air, seaports and land borders with almost the same responsibilities should be looked into.

“Indiscriminate and multiple issuance of alerts on imported goods by the various units of the Nigeria Customs Service and other security agencies should be scrapped. Also the total absence of durable, tropicalised scanners at the seaports has in no small measures been impeding trade facilitation and smooth running of the seaports. We will appreciate if you use your good office to reach out to relevant ministries and agencies to ensure that scanners are installed at the ports within a short time.

“ANLCA will also appreciate it if you reach out to the ministries supervising the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control NAFDAC, Standards Organization of Nigeria SON, National Plants Quarantine Services NPQS and security agencies to come up with a standardised operating procedure to avoid continuous waste of time”, Nwabunike said.

He also called on shipping companies and terminal operators to automate their processes to reduce human contact and interface with a view to reducing corruption and enhancing ease of doing business.

On the trapped consignments, he urged the government to prevail on Customs to collect duty on dutiable ones among them to mitigate the losses on the part of the importer while the contrabands among them should be impounded and treated according to extant laws, insisting that ANLCA will never support noncompliance with trade policies by anybody.