THE National President, The Patriots Anticorruption Initiative (T-PACI), Comrade Ibe Stephen Obi, has said that agencies and shipping companies operating in Nigeria’s maritime industry have made the ports most expensive in the world by their multiple and arbtirary charges to importers of goods.
Obi who stated this in a chat with Prime Business Africa, disclosed that for an importer to get a single consignment out of the ports, they must meet with various agencies who subject them to different kinds of financial charges and delays.
Obi who has been a clearing and forwarding agent for more than three decades at Apapa Port Terminal, Lagos, said agencies such as the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), Maritime Police, shipping companies, Ports concessionaires, National Agency For Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and taskforce operatives who are at different locations at the ports make what he called “frivolous financial” demands before an importer is allowed to move any container out of the ports.
According to him, these agencies force people clearing goods to pay huge levies that have no legal basis.
For the Maritime Police, Obi said they have specific amount they charge for different sizes of container of goods being cleared from the port.
He said, “What happens is that the Maritime Police collect N100,000 naira for 40 feet container, N50,000 naira for 20 feet container. No reason is given for collecting such charges, only that you have to give it as bribe. And if you don’t give that bribe, your container will be there in the port incurring demurrage.
“Therefore, they are forcing people who do not want to give bribe to do so to get their container out. Nobody will allow his container to be there incurring demurrage because of N100,000 or N50,000 naira, rather the person will give it and carry his container away. This is why businesses in Nigerian ports are becoming too expensive.”
He accused port concessionaires of corruption and colluding with the agencies at the ports to seize and delay people’s containers while demanding for payment, adding that they make profit from demurrage paid by importers for extra time the containers stayed in their custody.
This he said, is at the expense of the poor masses who are forced to pay higher for goods they buy in the open market because importers would have to add every cost incurred during importation.
Obi said T-PACI had written to the Nigerian Police Force and other agencies at the ports complaining about such alleged extortion, but all their complaints had received no response.
He however disclosed that T-PACI as a registered Non-Governmental Organization would continue to fight corruption at the ports, and would stop at nothing to ensure that the ports were corruption free.
According to Obi, the organisation is preparing to file court actions against agencies who are extorting money from importers at the ports.