Importers’ Heaves A Sigh Of Relief As Hajia Usman Steps In To Ease their Pains At The Lagos Seaports

By Stephen Ubanna

 For years, Importers with their clearing agents have been undergoing pains in taking delivery of their cargoes at Apapa, the nation’s premier port and Tincan Island port. This is because of the heavy financial burden placed upon them by the Concessionares at these ports. The situation was too bad as may importers were forced to relocate to Cotonou port in Republic of Benin and ports in the West African Subregion.

This may have reflected on the revenue generation of the Authority that  Hadiza Bala Usman the Magnaging Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, was forced to step in to stop the trend  by initiating measures that could reduce the financial burden on the importers.

As a prelude to reducing the financial burden and encourage importers who had relocated to other ports in the sub region,  on Tuesday, December 28, to return ,  Usman, the NPA , boss, was said to have approved  an increase  in ”rent-free period for cargoes warehoused  at the terminals  from the current period  of three days  before the commencement  of the rent charges  to 21 days. This, according to an the Authority source was before the commencement  of the new rent charges  for a period of four months.

The NPA Managing Director, was also said to have given a matching order  to the shipping companies to quickly deploy sweeper vessels  to evacuate  the empty Containers that had been returned by the importers’ agents   from the port to ”clear  the backlog  of empty Containers littering  the country within four months”. it was learnt that the NPA Chief Executive had encouraged the use of Onne port in the oil rich Rivers state  for the use of such sweeper vessels.

Despite the plot by officials of the shipping companies, which are mostly foreign owned to sabotage directive, the NPA Chief Executive stood his ground that the companies had no option but to comply. Determined o decongest the ports of overtime cargoes to  create space to accommodate new cargoes,  She was said to have ordered the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, Authorities to commence the process of auctioning  overtime cargoes at the port.

Hadiza Bala Usman. Managing Director NPA

She was said to have made it clear to Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, NCS,  and the importers that the ”ports are meant to be a transit and not storage facilities”. An aggrieved Usman  said the auctions should be carried out  on the spot  at port locations , adding that ”every buyer should buyer  should be given  a stipulated period  to evacuate  the cargoes out of the port after which   they will be re-auctioned”.

She also had a word of the terminal operators who were said to be part of the problem  at the ports. Appealing to them to negotiate  with importers and their agents and grant them waivers  to facilitate  the evacuation  of these cargoes, she declared that  ”it was the only way to mitigate   against  auctioning  which will result  in total loss of revenue  by the terminal operator and the loss of cargo by the importer.

The Authority sources told The Value News  that these were   emergency measures  taken to reduce  the ”financial burden  of congestion  on citizens as President Muhammadu Buhari Administration Proceeds to permanently  resolve  the congestion problems at the seaports through  the reconstruction of  the port access road,  the provision of trailer park and holding bays with e-call -up system. and the enhancement  of cargo evacuation  using rail  transportation and Inland Water Ways with Barges among others. The Value News cited one of  those Inland Water Ways Barges at Marina loaded with empty Containers heading to Apapa port on Tuesday, March 5, 2019.

Admitted that the new policy measures favours importers with their agents, the Authority management may not have wanted to wrong the shipping companies and the terminal operators , as it was said to have assured them of” plans to consider  a major shift in operational cargoes to ameliorate the situation of stakeholders.

It was learnt that since the Hajia Usman took the radical change there had been noticeable changes in the management of overtime cargoes and management of empty Containers at the two major seaports in Lagos: Apapa  and Tincan land.

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