By Gboyega Oni
This is not the best time for stakeholders in cargo operations in the nation’s seaports. The port is reeking in high cost. The astronomical increase in all operational costs has messed up businesses of stakeholders, particularly the importers and customs agents.
As one of the steps to ameliorate the situation, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has been advised to stop the collection of N75,000 service charge on all imports and equally reduce and port and harbor dues immediately.
Also, both NPA and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) must harmonise the double taxation of pollution charges being collected by them.
This was suggested by the General Secretary of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Alhaji Abdulazeez Babatunde in a paper he presented on behalf of the association at a forum on high cost of cargo operations in Nigerian ports in Lagos on Tuesday December 4, 2018.
Alhaji Abdulazeez Babatunde noted that the unjustified rise in the port costs was caused by actions and inactions of all stakeholders – NPA, NIMASA, Nigerian Shippers Council, Nigeria Customs, terminals operators, shipping lines, customs agents and truck owners.
He noted that the reckless issuance of multiple red alerts by the Nigeria Customs Service on cargo was worrisome just as its valuation methods were not in consonance with the World Customs Organisation’s trade valuation which, according to him, has doubled up landing costs of cargo before eventually arrived at the warehouses of importers.
The ANLCA scribe queried the motive behind the port development policy of NPA despite collecting huge levy of N76,000 on all imports when the port infrastructure were decaying. He added that the double taxation being collected by NPA and NIMASA on pollution has added to the increase in cargo cost.
‘’Anyone would tend to ask what really is the port development policy stand-point of Nigerian Ports for the next ten (10) years if there is any. Presently there is N76,000 service charge by NPA on all import to Nigeria, couple with double taxation between Nigerian Ports Authority and NIMASA on pollution charges. The per Tonnes USD160 and USD93 Port and harbour dues on laden imports and exports container have greatly increased operational cost in the ports,’’ noted ANLCA scribe.
Speaking further, Babatunde maintained that the situation was worsened by the summersault in fiscal policy of the government which has made it difficult for average importer and other stakeholders in the port system to plan, adding that flagrant disobedience of the directives on Ease of Doing Business policy by all government agencies also compounded the situation.
On the role of customs agents in the increase, Alhaji Babatunde blamed the Nigeria Customs Service for its failure to designate acceptable fees that agents should charge importers this, he noted, gave customs agents freedom to fraudulently charge importers any amount, saying that the attempt of the Nigerian Shippers Council to standardize the rate would not be realistic.
‘’The inability of Nigeria Customs Service to clearly designates acceptable fees receivable by licensed customs brokers has made the practitioner fee a matter of shrewd negotiation skills of practitioners against their principals with pervasive sharp and fraudulent practices against Nigerian traders. The Shippers’ Council attempt recently to standardize freight haulage rates might not see the light of the day as the cost derivatives: bad road, obsolete port handling equipments, and untrained trade professionals have not been fully addressed,’’ he noted.
On shipping lines and terminal operators, the ANLCA scribe said that both shipping lines and terminal operators increased charges without recourse to importers and customs agents.
‘’The high handedness and conspiracy theory of shipping lines and terminal operators, by way of increasing of demurrages and storage rents respectively, once they have NPA in agreements without re-course to critical stakeholder, have been a major concern,’’ said Babatunde.
He however called for full automation of all ports (terminals and shipping) transactions, openness, professionalism and integrity base service on the part of Customs, full illumination of the ports and inter-land bonded terminals, robust intermodal transport connection services and strict compliance with Government directives.