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Customs embark on cargo auction to decongest ports

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CBN directs Customs to adopt same forex rate from import to clearance

…as 7-10year old cargoes occupy 35% of port space

A cornerstone of the new agenda of the new Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs, is to decongest ports and make them more efficient.

This has become imperative in view of the fact that in recent years, one of the challenges confronting ports administration is the issue of overtime cargoes.

It has become an eyesore, and both stakeholders and officials are worried about the gross congestion from Apapa to Tin-Can, and Onne Ports, there are litters and tons of abandoned and overtime container boxes and vehicles.

It is no brainer that presence of abandoned and overtime cargoes at our sea ports threaten port efficiency. They also necessitate high cargo dwell time, and delay turnaround time of ships as vessels spend between 18 to 25 days waiting time, before discharging at the ports.

Business Hallmark’s investigations revealed that last year there were over 10,000 overtime cargoes worth billions of naira stranded and abandoned by importers.

According to investigations, some of these cargoes have been in the ports for between seven to 10 years, and have taken about 30 per cent of port space, which invariably congest the various terminals at the ports due to lack of space.

This unwholesome state of affairs at the ports have sorely grieved terminal operators and users of port services, because they have continued to suffer incalculable economic losses as a result of ports congestion. In this wise, they have been unrelenting in calling on Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, in particular, to wade in and arrest the situation.

Initially, the Customs have taken the approach of on-the-spot auctions of overtime goods but this alone has sounded like a drop in the ocean according to Simeon Ebulakun of Carnoe Cargoes who spoke with Business Hallmark on the matter.

Part of recent solutions adopted by the NCS, in hearkening to the demands of critical stakeholders, is the recently revamped e-auction Platform.

The move was geared towards fast-tracking the effective and transparent disposal of goods impounded, together with overtime cargoes. “This strategic move aligns with the guidelines outlined in the newly enacted Nigeria Customs Service Act, 2023, showcasing the agency’s dedication to efficiency and fairness.

“The new platform, accessible at https://auction.nigeriatradehub.gov.ng, is an upgraded version of the previous portal designed to provide Nigerians with an equal opportunity to participate.

“Since its relaunch, the platform has recorded impressive results, including: • 1137 number of bids • 1099 registered applicants • 652 successfully paid administration fee • 100 vehicles uploaded on the window • 86 vehicles bided and won.

“The NCS emphasizes that successful bidders should promptly download their winning certificates through the provided link in the confirmation email. Subsequently, winners are required to present the certificate, where the goods are domiciled, and the clearance process is expected to be done within seven days,” said Customs spokesperson, Abdullahi Maiwada, in a statement.

According to NCS’ statement, the auctions are periodic and open every Tuesday from 12 noon to 6 pm, providing the public with regular opportunities to select and bid for desired items.

The statement further reads that, “For comprehensive details and guidelines on the e-auction process, interested participants are encouraged to visit the NCS website at www.customs.gov.ng. Any concerns or complaints can be directed to the NCS Helpdesk at 07037891156, operational from Mondays to Fridays from 9:00am to 5:00pm.

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“While we acknowledge occasional glitches reported by participants, potentially attributed to high traffic, our dedicated technical team is actively addressing the situation. We assure the public that initial issues will be swiftly resolved to ensure a seamless experience in all subsequent exercises.

“The NCS remains committed to transparency, accessibility, and public engagement through its revamped e-auction platform, fostering a fair and efficient process for the disposal of seized and overtime goods”.

As a law enforcement agency, which has seriously been accused of perpetrating fraud in the course of discharging its mandate, having a revamped e-auction platform will be a game changer for the Customs. If the process of disposing seized good or overtime cargoes are transparent for the public, it will further guarantee just and fair service delivery to citizens, while boosting national revenue.

On his part, Adegboyega Oyetola, minister of marine and blue economy, said recently that there were over 6,000 abandoned and overtime containers littering the Apapa, Tin-Can Island and Onne Ports, and obstructing the ease of doing business at the port.

“We have overtime cargoes that have been in the port since 2011, particularly in Tin-Can and Apapa Ports. I want to believe that it is likely to happen in other ports. There must be a time frame by which a cargo can stay, otherwise declared abandoned,” he said.

He said finding lasting solutions to the issue of overtime containers would help to decongest the port and create space for fresh business.

Not doing so will be a terrible drawback for the leadership of CGC Adewale Adeniyi, who is bent on changing the narrative of the Nigeria Customs for good, and from what Nigerians hitherto ascribed to the NCS, albeit negatively.

“We gradually witnessing what I can call a phased decongestion of our ports. There’s a huge challenge ahead, according to information we keep hearing, because of the uneven exchange rate, the Nigerian government has increased the Customs duty on importation by 57 percent. This is the latest news on the matter now. But Adeniyi through the e-auction, the ports terminals are gradually easing of unclaimed cargoes that litter everywhere’, Adeolu Abereoran, a freight forwarder told Business Hallmark.

 

According to him, some of the vehicles are being auctioned at half the price. “A person I know bought Toyota Corolla 2012 model at ₦900000 as against the model’s official price of ₦4 million.

Richard Adebanwo, a maritime lawyer told Business Hallmark that “e-auction is good because there’s transparency in the system, saying the last one done early January was transparent and I commend the leadership of the Nigerian Customs Service to continue the initiative regularly. This will rid the ports of congestion. Efforts to confirm this officially proved abortive.

Gbenjo Alebiosu, another freight forwarder told Business Hallmark that “what I like is that unlike before the process of the e-auction is transparent and follows due process

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