Maritime stakeholders have expressed grave concerns over the conspicuous absence of the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali at the inaugural strategic meeting of heads of maritime agencies.

The industry is currently grappling with massive congestion both at the terminals and the access roads with the attendant high cargo dwell time, long turnaround time of vessels and growing insecurity of the nation’s waters, among several others.

The meeting was instituted to enable the heads of the agencies close ranks with a view to finding lasting solutions to these various challenges currently plaguing the industry.

In attendance at the inaugural meeting were Director General, of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, Executive Secretary/CEO, Nigerian Shippers Council NSC Barr Hassan Bello and Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority NPA Ms. Hadiza Usman Bala. The meeting was held at the headquarters of the council, Apapa Lagos.

A stakeholder, who spoke with our Correspondent on phone, commended the initiative, but expressed grave worries over the total absence of the CG, which he argued speaks volumes.

According to him, the Customs Administration, which actually owns the seaports, is crucial segment of international trade and commerce and the entire supply chain in any nation and must therefore be physically present at such meetings.

He argued that this is more so given that many of the challenges faced in the port industry, especially in terms of efficient cargo delivery, lack of which is the root cause of the massive congestion rocking the ports are traceable to the operations of the service would have been discussed and solutions preferred.

Another stakeholder, who also pleaded anonymity, wondered why the CG should not be present at such crucial meeting, which is also first of its kind in the industry, and which is very much needed at this time to address these myriads of issues and challenges.

” I do not want to make excuses for the CG, but even if he was so busy that could justify his physical presence, the least one would have expected from him was to send a representative either in Lagos or Abuja to stand in for him and express the views of the service.

“Any one that operates in the country’s seaport industry whether as a regulator, service provider or consumer of such shipping services should be seriously concerned due to the unprecedented level of rot in the place. This also accounts for why many of us are excited by the decision of the heads of the agencies to close ranks with a view to addressing these issues as urgently as possible”, he said.

He however urged the heads of the government agencies to also get inputs from nongovernmental agencies and operators in the solution process, which he believes, would help address these challenges as fast as possible.

Meanwhile efforts to reach the National Public Relations Officer of the service, Deputy Comptroller Joseph Attah on the likely reason for the CG’s boycott of meeting proved abortive, as he did not take up phone calls put across to him.