By Gift Chapi Odekina
The House of Representatives Committee on Customs on Tuesday tackled the Nigerian Customs Service NCS, the Nigeria Ports Authority NPA and the Nigerian Shippers Council over the persistent congestion at the nation’s seaports and called for concerted efforts of all the maritime stakeholders to end it
The House further lamented that the nation’s six seaports had become non-functional due largely to corrupt practices particularly extortion going on in the nation’s ports of entry notably the seaports and land borders by security agents naming these entry routes.
Chairman of the House Committee Hon. Leke Abejide and other lawmakers at the National Assembly charged the Nigerian Customs Service NCS and stakeholders at an investigative hearing on ports congestion to work with security agencies to reduce the congestion at the seaports that made them so ineffective.
He further said that the NCS should proffer solutions to the myriad of problems and issues that had made the agency ineffective in the performance of its duties despite having a retinue of qualified personnel in hierarchical order.
He also sounded a note of warning to the NCS personnel and others security agents and others that harass and extort shippers of goods at the seaport and particularly loathed the activities of bonded terminal operators saying that “we are coming after you for your inefficiency.”
The lawmaker also lamented that the NCS had procured some non functional scanners at these seaports and challenged the agency to ensure that they do something urgently and everything possible to repair these equipment.
Some other committee members as Hon.Uyime Idem (Akwa-ibom, PDP) also expressed displeasure over this issue noting that out of the six seaports only two of them (Apapa and Tin can Island) are operating at full capacity.
Another committee member Hon. Omowumi Ogunlola (Ekiti, APC) in her submission also said that there are too many roadblocks at the seaports by security agents adding that the Nigeria Ports Authority should dismantle them.
However, the Comptroller-General CG of the NCS Col. Hammed Ali (rtd) who was represented by Deputy Comptroller-General DCG Tariff and Trade Salatu Isa disagreed with the lawmakers on the allegations of corruption and extortions.
She said that the agency is working very hard to address many issues such as smuggling and brigandage at these ports and exonerated NCS personnel form any form of unwholesome act by security agents at the sea ports.
She further told the committee that Nigerians had not appreciated the work of the agency at these seaports and appealed to the lawmakers for more understanding of their roles in security.
Nontheless,the Acting Managing Director Ag.MD of Nigerian Ports Authority NPA Mr Ahmed Bello said that there are multiple extortion at these seaports by security agents.
He also called for the swift auctioning of some of the old containers at these seaports noting that some of them are over one year old.
Other key stakeholders including the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Shippers Council Mr Emmanuel Jime said that the agency had streamlined its operations in these seaports as regards tarifs.
He further said that there is an electronic registration process that is ongoing in the agency to make its processes seamless and regretted that it is cumbersome.
The Committee Chairman Hon.Abejide while registering his doubts to these interventions had ruled that the NCS CG must cause appearance to the probe of the House committee in two weeks time in order for him to thrash these issues.