By BUKOLA LONGE
Freight forwarders have again cried out over the unrestrained duplication of checks of containers cleared by customs authorities at Nigerian ports.
The freight forwarders said that the practice negated the ease of doing business idea being championed by the Federal Government.
Speaking in Lagos at the weekend on the issue, the forwarders said that an administration fighting corruption should not allow the blatant corrupt practices of customs officials and other security agencies on highways in the country.
According to them, corruption is what necessitates the multiple checks by different units of the customs, especially the Strike Force and the Federal Operations Units of the agency.
A member of the National Council of Managing Directors of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, Mr Emeka Eletuo, said that he was at a loss over the intention of various units of the customs, checking cargo that had already been cleared at various ports.
“We are daily told that the Federal Government is streamlining operatives to make the ports user-friendly yet customs officials are everywhere extorting money on cargo.
“Taking your released container out of port, your truck will be stopped by either the Strike Fore or the Federal Operations Unit of the same customs for another round of examinations.
“In most cases, nothing is wrong with your container but one rarely leaves the scene without parting with money after time wasting. Sometime, it takes a whole day.”
Eletuo told the authorities of the customs to call their men to order because their activities were portraying the current administration in bad light.
“They are scaring away investors in their bid to make hot cash. More so, this is against the anti-corruption stance of President Muhammed Buhari,’’ he stated.
Chairman of the Ikorodu Chapter of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, Mr. Obinna Okafor, described the Strike Fore as a nightmare for freight forwarders and transporters.
“After having your goods released at the ports, you still have the so-called intervention units of the customs to contend with, making transactions difficult.”
Okafor said the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) should reshuffle its officers at the ports if the service no longer had confidence in them, instead of duplicating checks.
Meanwhile the National Public Relations Officer of the NCS, Mr. Joseph Attah, had said that the Strike Fore could only be called upon to be part of a joint container examination in cases of suspicious containers.
He said that it was illegal for the Strike Force to embark on regular container checks on highways.
Meanwhile, a report unveiled in Abuja by the African Centre for Supply Chain (ACSC), has said that high transit tariffs due to inadequate infrastructure leads to escalation of export and import costs and reduction in their attractiveness on the global market.
The report, titled: Nigerian Logistics and Supply Chain, revealed that poor roads, inadequate rails and inefficient harbours continue to drive up the prices of locally produced goods in Nigeria.
“For Nigeria, this report has revealed that the country’s logistics performance level is low, not only within the global setting, but also among African countries,” the report stated.
Unveiling the report, the Minister of Transport, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, agreed with the report that transport infrastructure quality had a notable effect on cost levels.
“The Nigerian Government is taking proactive measures to reduce the country’s logistics costs in relation to its gross domestic product by paying special attention developing appropriate logistics policies to accommodate the needs of economic development,” he said.
The minister, who was represented at the event, said recent transport investments had been guided by the Nigeria Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan (NIIMP) and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
The Director General of ACSC, Dr. Obiora Madu, said it was cheaper to bring container of goods from China to Lagos than from Tin Can Port to Ikeja.
Madu said the success of any nation’s economy was measured by the logistics performance level of such the country and that this explained why China’s economy was performing well.
He said Nigeria needed to improve the country’s logistics and supply chain to unlock the economy, reduce wastage and grow wealth for the people.