By Zika Bobby
Chairman of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Apapa chapter, Dr. Sylvester Budu,in this interview, expressed optimism that the electronic call-up system of trucks by Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) will solve the lingering Apapa gridlock.
Give us an overview of what to expect from your new leadership as ANLCA chairman, Apapa chapter.
We have a lot of positive things on ground. As you might understand, immediately we took off, there was no secretariat on ground. We just acquired a secretariat a few days ago for the chapter, which is under renovation now.
Also, we got a Sienna bus for the office of the executive chairman of ANLCA, and by the special grace of God we are getting another bus by next week for the task force, and they will commence operations fully. These logistics arrangements are necessary for us to function well.
Gone are the days when people saw agents as touts. Our new operation aims to show them that our members are not only educated but also exposed and of decent behaviour.
My team is on ground to protect the interest of our members while leading the way for everyone to abide by the law at all times.
We will offer protection and guidance to all our members so they can benefit from their jobs and be fairly treated by other stakeholders including government agencies.
We are here for a vision, and we have a mission, which is to restore the lost glory of agents, so they can be proud of their profession.
Not like when you tell someone you are a clearing agent and they look at you like a tout or dropout. Most of us are graduates, so we need to make people understand that our job is being professionalised.
Also, we need to work closely with the Customs. The Customs is all about generating revenue but at the same time the interests of the agents need to be protected.
We need to sensitise our people on how to go about their jobs, handling their consignments and at the same time we are trying to organise a seminar, all stakeholders would be invited.
It will feature lectures and be like a question-and-answer session to determine areas where they are having problems. We will dialogue together on how to resolve them.
Apapa traffic situation has been in the news lately. What is your view about NPA’s electronic call-up system?
I am in accord with the Nigerian Ports Authority’s newly introduced system; the e-call-up, which is used in most developed countries.
You cannot just bring in your truck when you are not ready for delivery. And when you are ready, TDO is being issued to you and you get the call-up straight to the terminal, where you load and go.
If we practice this e-call-up system effectively, it will be the best for everybody. It would ease up the traffic, save time and cost.
Not like in the past, when you spend a lot of money trying to get trucks to the port. This is a plus, and I am in support of it.
It was one of the issues my administration wanted to suggest to the NPA before it was announced and is now being implemented.
We wanted to make a suggestion to them, that this is how it is done around the world; even in neighbouring Cotonou. If you go to their port, you will see, you have easy exit and access to the road.
Apart from that, some are saying that the road construction has been too slow. Do you agree with this ?
We are Nigerians, and if there is any other adjective to use instead of too slow, we will use it. It is more than slow, and I am beginning to feel like there is sabotage going on.
A lot of revenue comes from that port, which means priority should be given to road construction. If I am able to suggest to the government, that project should be carried out round the clock; 24 hours, non-stop.
They should have taken advantage of the dry season to work day and night on that road unless they want to tell me some people are benefitting from it, then the government should place top priority on getting that road done immediately.
December and early January was a nightmare there, even up till now. The road leading to Tin Can Port is a disaster; you find it difficult to get containers in right now.
How has the bad road and traffic situation affected the cost of moving cargoes from the port?
The road has affected the cost of delivery, made life difficult for agents and importers, and I believe it is affecting the market, that is the final consumers.
When it takes you time to bring out a consignment at a very exorbitant price, it will affect the final consumers in the form of inflation.
We are suffering more than 300% increase, from what it used to be.
Before this crisis, a 20-foot container going to Alaba would normally have cost N400,000 to N450,000. But, if I am not mistaken, we paid almost N1.6 million during the December period to Alaba.
For a 20-foot container?
Yes, for a 20-foot container going to Alaba. You can imagine! So it is even more than a 300 per cent increment, and you can imagine its effects on the economy.