Stakeholders in the shipping industry, says Terminal Operators have the overall responsibility of evacuating overtime cargoes trapped at the ports to government warehouses anywhere in the country.
The stakeholders who were reacting to concerns by the Apapa Customs Command that it lacked the resources to move such containers to the Government Warehouse in Ikorodu, said it is not the duty of the Service to do that.
Apapa Customs Public Relations Officer, Nkiru Nwala, told newsmen that the Comptroller of the Command, Abubakar Bashir, has been discussing with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the terminal operators to assist the Customs to move the containers.
Nwala said the Command cannot afford to bear the cost of moving the containers at the rate of N550,000.
But retired Deputy Comptroller-General of the Customs, Mr Julius Nwagwu said it was not the duty of Customs to move such containers, adding that it is left for the terminal operators to do so.
Nwagwu said it was unfortunate that some officers of the Customs do not consult their books to acquaint themselves with provisions of the laws and the codes.
“It is unfortunate officers do not consult their books to acquaint themselves with provisions of the laws and the codes. Who told them that it is the responsibility of Customs to move overtime goods to the warehouse” Nwagwu said.
He continued, “ We developed lots of memo on the subject in our time. The warehouse code is very clear on it. They don’t consult us so we also keep to ourselves.
“ Section 31 (1) and (2) of the CEMA , CAP C45 deal with Uncleared and Missing Goods. It states inter alia that such goods SHALL be transferred by the person administering the area , or the owner of the ship , aircraft or vehicle or his agent to the Government warehouse or to such other place as the proper officer(Customs) may approve. NPA is the administrator of the ports but transferred same to the concessionaires”.
Similarly, the President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Customs Agents (NCMDCA), Mr Lucky Amiwero also said the responsibility of moving overtime cargoes to government warehouses rests with the terminal operators.
Amiwero in a letter to the President dated October 3 on the issue of removal of uncleared/overtime cargoes from the terminals to the government warehouse at Ikorodu made it clear that the Customs has no such responsibility.
He wrote: “The Terminal operators by the provision of the Customs and Excise Management Act C 45 of 2004 Section 31-(2) is to transfer all such goods as supplied in the List by the proper officer to government warehouse , the section states:
“On the receipt of the list specified in subsection (1) of this section, the person administering the area (TERMINAL OPERATORS), or where there is no such person, the owner of the ship, Aircraft or vehicles, or his agent, shall immediately Transfer all such goods to the Government warehouse or to such other place (TERMINAL/ CONSTRUCTIVE WAREHOUSE) as the proper officer may approve.
“ REMOVAL OF UNENTERED GOODS TO GOVERNMENT WAREHOUSE BY TERMINAL/ SHED OPERATORS TO IKORODU.
All goods that are unentered after the specified days after the completion of discharge of the ship/ Aircraft is to be transferred to Federal Government warehouse/ constructive warehouse in the Terminal as contained in
Section 31-(4) which clearly states-
Where any imported goods remain unentered at the expiration of , the specify days from the date of completion of discharge of the importing ship, aircraft or Vehicle the proper officer(CUSTOMS OFFICER) may direct the person administering the area (TERMINAL OPERATORS) within which the discharge of the ship, Aircraft or vehicles or , where there is no person administering such area, the owner of the ship, Aircraft or Vehicles or his agents to remove or store( TERMINAL CONSTRUCTIVE WAREHOUSE) all or any such goods to or at Government Warehouse or such other place as the proper officer( CUSTOMS OFFICER) may approve”.
However Nwala told newsmen that the Command cannot afford to bear the cost of moving the containers at the rate of N550,000.
She said “To pick a container from Apapa port to Jibowu is N550,000, so for now, the modalities to get the containers out is being worked out.
“Using barges is not also cheap, some are using train and sometimes you will see that the train breaks down, it is a whole lot of challenges but talks are ongoing. Even for barges, where and where are the clear routes for barges to sail through?
“The Controller has met with NPA Port Manager, but the question is who will foot the bill the containers have accumulated? There are some that have been here before the terminal was concessioned. We are gathering the figure on the number of overtime containers.”
“We have had a meeting with NPA. Overtime cargo means after 28 days, but for the past one year, you cannot finish clearing your cargo from the port and for a whole month you will not get a truck to go in and move it out”.
The Command, Nwala said, is still compiling the list of the overtime cargoes.
She disclosed that the bad road network has made it difficult for the clearing of the containers, one of the reasons for the rising number of overtime containers at the ports.