Clearing agents operating at the nation’s ports have accused the Nigeria Customs Service of frustrating clearance of overtime cargo at the government warehouse in Ikorodu with its insistence on collection of N10, 000 per day as rent charges.
Customs had in December 2020, commenced collection of N10, 000 on overtime forty-foot containers while N5, 000 is charged on overtime twenty-foot boxes.
According to the NCS, the policy which is in line with its extant laws is being implemented to encourage people not to abandon their cargoes at the warehouse.
But speaking with Maritime Today Online, Coordinator of Save Nigerian Freight Forwarders, Osita Chukwu, faulted the imposition of such levies on importers after appropriate customs duty had been paid on the affected containers at the port before they became overtime.
Osita said the charges imposed by Customs has created a setback in the clearance of overtime cargo as some importers are no longer keen to take their containers, some of which he said are still holding sundry items that have gone bad over the years while others have expired, thereby taking up available space at the government warehouse.
This, he said, is hindering transfer of new overtime cargoes currently taking up space at the seaport terminals.
“The original amount importers are expected to pay according to what is in the CEMA is N1000, but Customs is saying the amount is too small compared with the exchange rate, hence it was reviewed. So we ask why can’t Customs review other obsolete laws they are still applying in the CEMA?
“We are very worried about the crooked way Customs is managing the system of overtime cargo. If they continue like this, owners of cargo may not even get anything after clearance because most of the consignments have depreciated in value while some have expired. At the moment some are not even interested to clear their consignment. You cannot be killing the economy and say you’re building the economy.
“Customs did not even tag it N1, 500 per day rather they peg it at such a huge amount and they would be compelling agents to pay up to N1.5 million at the end of the day depending on how long the container stays at the terminal,” he said.
“So the insistence of Customs on collecting the operational fee is causing a setback in clearance of overtime cargo at the government warehouse leading to more economic loss because it is when you clear the ones that are there that you can create more space in the port for new import because we still have some overtime cargo at the port,” he said.
Chukwu added that Customs bureaucracy at the government warehouse is also affecting quick clearance at the terminal with no adequate logistics put in place to evacuate the containers.
He urged the Customs management to create and designate more terminals for overtime cargoes in order to decongest the Ikorodu terminal.
“A lot of bureaucracies are being experienced at the Ikorodu terminal. Customs should start looking at other places to designate as government warehouses because the terminal is full and the cargoes are not going out as they should. Even the logistics to evacuate the cargoes are not there.
“We are calling on Customs to expedite action in clearance of overtime cargo when they are transferred to Ikorodu so that they can create space for incoming ones. We are also calling on the Customs CG to intervene and call for dialogue instead of compelling people to pay that amount,” he said.