From left: Comptroller General of Nigeria Custom Service, Col. Hameed Ali rtd., Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala Usman and Executive Director, Marine & Operations, NPA, Dr. Sokonte Davies during a stakeholders’ meeting on overtime cargo at the Lagos Ports Complex in Lagos, Tuesday.

Strong indications emerged that no fewer than 1, 700 fully loaded containers of overtime imported goods and a total of 1, 179 used vehicles including scraps and movable ones are currently trapped at Nigeria’s seaports and terminals located in Lagos.

Details of these figures show that APM Terminals Apapa alone accounts  for 1, 259 containers, many of which have been at the terminal for between 90-4,000 days, while the 1,179 vehicles comprising 11 gazetted but not cleared and 1, 168 ungazetted others are still outstanding at the Ports and Terminal Multi-Services Limited PTML alone.

Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, who spoke at a tripartite meeting of NPA, the Nigeria Customs Service and some terminal operators held in Lagos, Tuesday, disclosed that the ports have been heavily congested, which does not make for efficiency of operation and timely release of cargo.

She noted that the reason for the meeting summoned at her instance was to find a lasting solution to the issue of over time cargo at the ports, what measures to be adopted to evacuate them and what form of concessions the terminal operators were willing to give to ensure that the goods were taken out of the seaports.

The MD also noted that since the land borders have been shut by the Federal Government, the seaports must be decongested by removing the overtime cargo that seem to hamper the capacity and efficiency of the seaports, which was one of the things the meeting must also resolve, insisting that terminal operators must bend over backwards to make concessions that would lead to the clearing of the overtime goods.

She however said that before the concession of the ports, the responsibility of removing overtime goods fell solely on NPA, being a sole terminal operator then, which was not addressed in the port concession agreement as the authority, has been stripped of its cargo handling functions, but pledged to look into how NPA would raise funds to do that since it was not captured in its current budget.

“All parties must be willing to make concessions to see that these goods were removed from the ports. NPA is currently seeking ways to raise the huge funds to cater for the logistics for the transfer of the abandoned goods to Ikorodu Lighter Terminal. We might need to approach the National Assembly for a budget virement, but we are being careful not to expose the government unnecessarily.

“We must be willing to bend over backwards to make concessions and within the next two days or so, I want the terminal operators to get back to me so that we will know the extent of concessions in terms of volume and value they are willing to make, which will be followed by newspaper advertisements to call on the importers to evacuate their consignments”, the MD had said.

Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali rtd., who also spoke at the brief meeting noted that the service was willing to cooperate with other stakeholders to ensure that the goods were evacuated from the seaports, insisting that the closure of the borders will lead to increased volume of cargo at the ports.

On the slow pace of cargo examination due to the absence of scanners, the CG promised that the service was working to ensure that the number of scanned consignments is more than those physically examined, but noted that the low level of integrity remains the reasons why most consignments are routed to physical examination.

On the physical examination of some consignments meant for the Inland Container Depots IDP, the CGC explained that the reason was to ensure that the service should have an idea of what is being taken to the nation’s hinterlands, adding that there have been instances where security men escorting the container connive with the importers, leading to the disappearance of the same containers.

He insisted that the partial examination will continue for now pending when necessary mechanisms were put in place to track and monitor the containers and security men escorting them to the IDPs, saying that he has left specific instructions with Customs Area Controllers to ensure that the overtime cargo were evacuated within shortest possible time.

In attendance at the meeting were representatives of APM Terminal, PTML, Ports and Cargo, West African Container Terminal WACT, Onne and Five Star Logistics, among others.