The Shippers Association of Lagos State (SALS) has lamented activities of security agents and touts operating around Port Harcourt port, saying that port users are being extorted and discouraged from making use of the port.
Speaking with newsmen recently, President of SALS, Rev Jonathan Nicole, lamented that importers will have to pass through many security checks which are also extortion points, to transport goods from Port Harcourt to the markets in the Eastern part of the country.
According to Nicole, “There are many things involved in the Eastern ports that discourage shippers from taking their cargoes there. First of all, you have to look at the security situation, the only place that I think is fairly manageable is Onne Port, but then it is very expensive to clear goods.
“Port Harcourt port is not too bad, but cost of bringing in goods from Port Harcourt is very high. To truck the goods from Port Harcourt to Aba where we have the market, there are several security checks on the road and it is hopelessly bad.
“So, it is easier to bring goods from Lagos to Aba or to Onitsha than from Port Harcourt to Onitsha and to Aba. Before you leave Port Harcourt, first of all the local government people will harass you and you can’t do without parting with money. Some of them really go violent, they claim to own the road which is a Federal road. To avoid all these drama, you would prefer to send your goods to Lagos because of the cost of clearing, though the transportation is high, but you would have peace of mind than in Port Harcourt.
“Much as we canvass that Eastern cargoes should go to Port Harcourt, Warri, Calabar ports, the Federal Government has a lot to do by removing the bottlenecks on the highway, because it’s like they just opened the whole place up for security agents to liter the whole road, some of them are illegal.
“The Federal Government should tackle all these challenges, and in addition they should reduce the Customs duties, they have a lot to do. It is when they have more cargo that they would have more money. Government has to make sure the security is okay, they have to remove the checkpoints, both authorised and unauthorized.”