National President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Alhaji Olayiwola Shittu, has blamed the total concession of Nigerian ports for their poor services.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quoted Shittu as saying, in Lagos, that some stakeholders had pointed out some problem areas in the current arrangement when the port concession began seven years ago.
He said that even neighbouring countries did not allow total privatisation of their ports to allow for government’s regulations to ensure standard port services.
“When the ports concession was done seven years ago, some of us pointed out that it was not well thought-out because no country privatises all its terminals.
“Countries which are our neighbours did not embark on 100 per cent privatisation, they simply formed a consortium where the government’s interest is vital.
“It means that government has some control in each of the terminals which should have been the case with the Nigerian Ports Authority,” Shittu said.
He said that operators could not do things with impunity, but worked within the timeframe to offer efficient services in countries where government was part of the port operations.
Shittu said that the objective of boosting inflow of foreign exchange through the concession had failed because terminal operators were only developing infrastructure with what they made from the business.
“Almost all the terminals are doing their expansion and renovation and buying equipment from the monies that they are making, rather than bringing in direct investments,’’ he said.
Shittu said that lack of close monitoring had made the terminal operators to carve out small areas of operation which were not standard enough.
“These terminals are cannibalised into small spots with each company taking care of its own area, but the facility within those small areas cannot meet the standard terminal requirements.
“Some of the terminals don’t have offices for Customs officers to operate and you cannot run a terminal without Customs presence,” he said.
The ANLCA president said that both the empty and laden containers were contesting for space because provisions were not made for holding bays.
Shittu said that apart from this, the terminals did not have warehouses to send containers to. He said these deficiencies have slowed down operations, including the positioning of containers for examination at the right time.
“These are the reasons the clearance process is slow. You can imagine that it takes between 10 – 14 days for cargoes to be examined after booking for the positioning,” Shittu said.
He said the combination of these challenges had caused importers to patronise ports in neighbouring countries where the processes are prompt and efficient.
He said the inefficiencies in port operations could be solved if the Nigerian Ports Authority introduced some regulations.