Stories by Merit Ibe
Exporters have called for collaboration of banks and the Federal Government to develop cargo truck parks at the Badagry-Seme border for safety of their goods and trucks.
They also bemoaned numerous checkpoints encountered in the course of moving their cargoes to Seme border, calling on government to intervene and save them from increased cost and unnecessary delay in their export operations.
Imokhai Ehimigbai, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Aarti Steel Nig Ltd, and an exporter, noted that cargo trucks on transit from Nigeria parked along the border road while being inspected. He said on a typical busy day, when activities were at the peak, the trucks parked along the road for two to three days while waiting for their turn to be confirmed by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), saying most times the vehicles are vandalised and goods pilfered.
Ehimigbai who spoke in Lagos suggested that banks can collaborate with the government to construct a park with sections for imports and exports, adding that this could generate a lot of revenue.
He suggested that the local government where the border is located can equally take up the project and earn revenue.
He noted that if the volume of trade increases with time, it could cause heavy traffic.
The CEO, who is also a member of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria Export Group (MANEG) decried a situation where Customs officers carried out their examinations along the road instead of doing so inside the park, saying it was dangerous.
“The charge per truck can be daily for a truck parked for two to three days. The owners will be willing to pay for the safety of their their goods and vehicles.
“Another problem is that most of our exporters park along the road while waiting to be attended to. When they are parked along the road, they are sometimes vandalised. And you spend more to hire boys to protect the vehicle and the goods.”
They also decried a situation where goods are delayed because the exporters would need to travel a mile or more to the offices of agencies that need to confirm their examination papers, thereby causing a set back for up to a day or two or even more.
“When we get to the border with our trucks of cargos we are delayed by the agencies meant to examine and confirm our documents. He suggested that the various agencies that need to sign the exporters’ examination forms at the borders should have an export desk at the border point, if they must participate in examination of cargoes, because the process of going a mile or two to their offices for confirmation causes delay. So that, when prospective exporters come, they should be assigned an officer for quick examination, instead of travelling miles away from the border to their various offices for confirmation. In some cases, when Customs is ready, one or two agencies are not.”
Ehimigbai, who commended the improvement at the border, noted that the Nigeria Export Payment (e-NXP) scheme has made things easier for exporters as processes are faster now than before.
An exporter and a clearing agent, Lukman Fasoye decried the numerous checkpoints in the course of transporting cargoes from Okoko area of Lagos to Seme border.
He explained that between Okoko and Seme border, there are about 70 check points, formal and informal check points, that had immigrations personnel, police, Customs and some known and unknown agencies who extort between #1000 and #5000 at each checkpoint from exporters, adding that they spent about #100,000 plus on checkpoint payments.
“They delay us if we refuse to pay, and which eventually adds to the cost of goods, making things difficult for us.”
Fasoye complained that they were currently facing difficulties hiring trucks to carry their goods because of the high rate of extortion at the checkpoints from exporters with genuine documents. He said trucks that ply the route either refuse to go or inflate their prices. He pleaded with government to intervene, reduce the number of checkpoints to save the situation and its negative effect on exporters.
The agent also said the conduct of examination on cargo trucks on transit along the road by Customs, was risky. He pleaded with government to provide parks for their safety.
The clearing agent also berated double search or examination of goods from free trade zones by Customs, which he said was wrong. Fasoye explained that goods from the trade zones have already been examined by Customs and escorted to the border, insisting that there was no need for another examination, but Customs personnel at the Seme border insist on another search, which increases cost and causes set back; making their products non competitive when they get to the destination country.