Port congestion: Reps task Customs to accelerate process of auctioning containers within 45 days

• decry diversion of cargoes to Benin, Togo

The House of Representatives on Tuesday tasked Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to accelerate the process of auctioning containers within 45 days as part of ongoing efforts geared toward decongestion of ports.

The resolution was passed sequel to the adoption of a motion on the ‘Urgent need to proffer solution to the persistent congestion at Nigeria Ports, sponsored by Hon. Mukhtar Ahmed.

In his lead debate, Hon. Ahmed who frowned at bureaucratic bottleneck inhibiting ease of doing business at the ports, who expressed grave concern over loss of huge revenue as a result of diversion of cargoes from Nigeria to her coastal neighbours like the Benin Republic and Togo.

“The House notes that out of the six Ports in Nigeria, the Apapa and Tin Can Ports jointly handle about 80% of the country’s total imports.

“The House also notes that the other ports have been operating far below capacity as they jointly handle only 20% of the total cargo volume.

“The House is concerned that the two Lagos Ports have been bedevilled by excruciating congestions which are adversely impacting on the ease of doing business, thus leading to loss of revenues to the country.

“The House is also concerned that obsolete clearing methods, abandonment of containers by importers, lack of automation of clearing, high terminal charges, exorbitant demurrage charges, absence of call-up system, cumbersome and multiple clearing procedures, corrupt and other sharp practices have not helped the present congestions which have so far defied all solutions.

“The House is worried that Apapa Port, Tin Can Island Port, Onne Port and other Ports are presently harbouring nothing less than 8,000 containers which have remained uncleared, including those at Customs Warehouses which are not auctioned.

“The House is also worried that the statutory process of decongestion through auction sales has not helped much due to the slow pace of Nigeria’s administration of justice in condemning the seizures presented by the Nigeria Customs Service.

“The House is further worried that the above scenario has caused the diversion of cargoes from Nigeria to her coastal neighbours like the Benin Republic and Togo, thereby leading to loss of huge businesses and revenues running into hundreds of billions of dollars.

“The House is cognizant that unless drastic action is taken to address the situation, the problem may soon become intractable,” he urged.

To this end, the House mandated its Committee on Customs and Excise to carry out a comprehensive investigation into the causes of the persistent congestion in Nigeria’s Ports to find short-term, medium-term, and long-term solutions and report back within three weeks for further legislative action.

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