Stories by Isaac Anumihe
Since 2006 when Nigeran ports were concessioned, there have been accusations and counter-accusations by the Federal Government and the concessionaires over failure of each party to fulfill the concession agreement.
While the Federal Government blames the concessionaires for performing below expectation, the concessionaires accuse the Federal Government of not living up to its billings with respect to provisions of infrastructure.
They complained that the Federal Government has grossly violated the terms of the concession agreement which include, provision of security, dredging of the channels, provision of good roads and railways among others.
The have also bickered over government’s harsh economic policies which have rendered most concessionaires redundant.
The terminal operators who spoke through their spokesman, Mr Bolaji Akinola, said that the concessionaires have made initial investments but because of the government’s policies the concessionaires have no choice than to remain inactive.
“Before 2013, import duty on vehicle was 20 per cent, made up of 10 per cent duty, 10 per cent surcharge. And the whole port was built in 2006 using that as a business case. Based on what was charged as tariff then, there were certain number of importations that Nigerians were doing. We were importing about 300,000 units of vehicles every year through the ports. These companies did their business case, got approval, built these ports based on that.
“But in 2013, the Jonathan Government decided to triple, in fact, almost quadruple the tariff on vehicles from 20 per cent to 70 per cent—35 per cent import duty and 35 per cent surcharge. So, what importers of vehicles did was to boycott the ports. So, they no longer import vehicles through the ports. They land the vehicles at the port of Cotonou and because we have porous borders, they smuggle them in. What do you think has happened to that terminal? So, business crashed and it had to let go some staff. Its revenue wiped out, not to talk of profit. Yet, it must continue to maintain the facility. This shows that the business has been taken away by government’s policy. One stroke of the pen has destroyed that terminal which was providing jobs for thousands of Nigerians. And these vehicles are still coming into Nigeria except that they are smuggled. Government will no longer collect tariff on them, so it is losing revenue. We are providing job for Benin Republic because of government policy. Our own people are losing their own jobs because of that policy. They say that they are using it to encourage local manufacturing. Have you seen since 2013 any made in Nigeria vehicle?,” he asked.
Giving similar details on how the government has undermined the ports, Akinola said: “Another terminal inside Apapa port is a bulk terminal. It also did its own business case to Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE). The terminal is handling rice, fish, salt, sugar, flour, cement. These are the kinds of cargo at that terminal. They did their business case and submitted their plans and invested a lot of money within the first five years.
Again, in 2012, Jonathan administration, with one stroke of the pen, wiped out some of these importations. Just in 2014, the same administration imposed 1010 levy on rice importation which was one of the mainstay of that terminal. By imposing 1010 levy, from the 30 per cent it used to be, importers of rice boycotted rice again. In Benin Republic, import duty on rice is 10 per cent. So, they don’t bother coming here. They land it there, pay 10 per cent, look for smugglers to smuggle it to Nigeria. So, you see rice all over the country – Thailand rice, parboiled rice and a whole lot of others, and they don’t come in through the ports. Government is losing revenue, terminal operators are losing revenue.
“Then to the forex policy which is the final nail on the coffin. That policy effectively affected importation of over 100 goods eventhough they say it is 41 items. Some of them are manufacturer items that are needed even in the factory. So, in effect, cumulatively, over the past 2, 3 years our ports have lost about 50 per cent of our cargo volume.
“In terms of jobs, those policies and even the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) policy, have led to more than one million redundancies in the port system – terminal operators’ workers, clearing agents, including their workers, truckers – are suffering. There are a lot of associated businesses around the ports. In terms of government revenue, we can use customs earnings as a benchmark. Before those policies came in, customs was beginning to hit the one trillion naira mark per annum. But since then, that has dropped by about 40 per cent. They are now in the region of N500 billion, N600 billion. I think, last year they did a little over N600 billion. So, government has lost over N400 billion.
Also, factors such as insecurity, poor draft of the channel which will not allow any ship to come there have contributed in no small measure to reduce the volume of business. It is not for operators to dredge the channels. It is the government’s responsibility. It is for government to maintain security on the waterways. It is for government to dredge those ports to allow vessels to come in. But if the channels are not dredged, it means the vessels cannot come in. So, their investment is meaningless” the operators stated.
But the former Executive Secretary of Shippers Council, Dr Kingsley Usoh, disagreed with them, asking why they have not thrown in the towel. “If the business is not profitable, why are they still there? As businessmen, if a business is not doing well, you throw in the towel and find another business. But they are still there and wanting government to do thei biddings.
We should know that the government is there to protect their interest and the interest of Nigerians. What they are supposed to put in they are not putting in. They just want to cut corners to make their bank accounts fatter,” he said.
Earlier, the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Usman, had said that the port concession agreement would be reviewed. Usman said this in Calabar when she toured the facilities at Ecomarine Terminals and Shoreline Logistic Limited. She said that the review of the concession agreement would have to be carried out in order to put all players on the same page.
The Managing Director expressed concern that there have been violations of some of the terms of the concession agreements, insisting that the concession agreement should be adhered to.
Driver arrested for trafficking 4 children
The Nigeria Customs Services (NCS) Command has arrested a driver suspected to be trafficking four children across the Seme Border.
The driver, Mr. Porsu David, and the four children were intercepted at Ashipa axis by officers and men of the Command in a vehicle with registration number AGL 538 BB.
Also, a man, Mr. Hassan Yusuf, with 14 wraps of substance suspected to be Indian Hemp, was intercepted by the patrol officers along Ashipa – Gbethromey axis.
In a statement, Customs Public Relations Officer, Seme Command, Mr Taupyen Selechang, said that both the children and the items had been handed over to the Comptroller, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and Commander, National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
Commenting during the handover of the suspects to the relevant agencies, the Acting Customs Area Controller, D/C Mulima, A. disclosed that the gesture was strictly in line with inter-agency co-operation that exists at the international land border. He further stated that as the lead agency at the border, the Nigeria Customs Service will continue to collaborate with the relevant agencies for effective and efficient border management. He added that as an agency that works strictly in line with the ethics of securing, co-ordinating and managing the border in line with the global best practices, the service also expects other relevant agencies to reciprocate the gesture by giving classified and credible information about smugglers and other unpatriotic elements involved in trans-border vices.
“The Nigeria Customs Service will not compromise to act promptly against any offender at the border even when the offence committed does not fall directly under the purview of the service,” he warned.
Air Cargo agents want service probed from 2007
By Ray Ugochukwu
Freight forwarders plying their trade at the nation’s airports have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to institute a probe into the operations of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) as part of measures to cleanse the rot in the service.
Operating under the auspices of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Chapter, the practitioners want the probe to commence from the Gyang Buba era of 2007.
Speaking for the group, was their Chairman, Honourable Segun Musa, who said the comments of the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, that “Customs stinks”, had vindicated their long-held stand on the paramilitary body.
Musa, who said the corruption in Customs was 80 per cent of the total decay in the Nigerian society, said such a probe should expose how much the service had generated during the era of Risk Assessment Report (RAR) and Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR).
He added that the inquest should also unravel the percentage of PAAR and Demand Notices (DN) raised with corresponding revenue and transmitted from Customs headquarters, even as he added that there should be post-audit of all revenues generated by all commands.
“We also want to know the number of seizures Customs made at the seaports, airports and borders in the period under review and how they were disposed of and the accruing revenue. If they were auctioned, who are their buyers and how much was realized?
“We also want to know how many licences the Customs have issued. How many of such are in use and how many that have been withdrawn and who are the beneficiaries of the licences, agents or Customs officers?” Musa stated.
The NAGAFF Chapter boss alleged that all the so-called Customs reforms were embedded in corruption, citing the PAAR initiative as one put in place to feather the nest of senior officers.
For effective work to be carried out in the course of investigation, he suggested that a credible body comprising anti-graft agencies, civil society groups, the ministries of transport and finance, Central Bank of Nigeria, representatives of freight forwarders and importers, among others, should do the job.
On the proposed amendment to the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA), pending at the National Assembly, Musa called on the lawmakers to jettison the idea describing the document as an “intellectual fraud”.
He cited many of the sections of the amendment proposal as being in conflict with citizens’ fundamental human rights and anti-trade; hence his suggestion that the document should be thrown into the trash can.
Again, he alleged that based on comments said to have been made by the Committee Chairman, there had been fears of compromise and said if the CEMA must be amended, an independent body should be constituted for it.
On the officers recently dismissed by management for corrupt practices, the NAGAFF chieftain said that was not deterrent enough as it amounted to treating a serious matter with kid’s gloves.
He said to serve as a real deterrent for future crimes, the affected officers were supposed to be jailed in addition to being sacked, as according to him, mere disengagement meant “asking them to go home and enjoy their loot”.
“This to me, does not make sense because other officers will continue committing similar act with the notion that “after all I can only be sacked I’ll them go home to enjoy what I’ve made”, Musa said.