By Shola Fadeyi & Emmanuel Ajiboye
Former CG of Customs , Alhaji Hamman Bello Ahmed
The former Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) , Alhaji Hamman Bello Ahmed has called for the restoration of the Customs Government warehouses, at the Lagos Port Complex(LPC), and the Tin Can Island Port, as a solution to the congestion of overtime containers at the Terminals of both Ports.
Ahmed who gave this advice in a telephone interview with the Marineandeconomy Online, said that the government warehouses that used to be in both Ports, were concessioned along with the Terminals by the Federal Government in 2006, during the seaports terminal concession programme, without the Customs raising any eyebrow about it.
He had made the suggestion, against the backdrop of reports in the National Dailies of the AP Moller Terminal ‘s complaint, last month that over 4,000 containers have been in its terminals in Apapa Port , Lagos, since the past 1,106 days while other concessionaires have also said that thousands of containers have congested their terminals for more than two years , when cargoes should not last more than 28 days in a terminal.
Ahmed disclosed that it is the failure of the Customs and its Controllers at the various commands at the seaports to have allowed containers to stay at the terminals at the seaports for years , when they should have been moved to the Government warehouses even outside the ports , granted that such facility is no longer available inside the Port.
According to him, the Apapa and Tin Can Ports terminals will continue to be congested with containers until Customs Government warehouses are re- introduced at the two Ports in accordance with the provisions of Sections 13, 31 and 84 of the Customs and Excise Management Act(CEMA) , CAP C, 45, LFN 2004.
Ahmed disclosed that it is the responsibility of the current CG of the Customs, Colonel Hameed Ali(rtd) and the area controllers of Customs of the Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports to ask the Terminal Operators , operating in both Ports to put Government Warehouses in place , failure which Customs would not allow vessels to discharge goods in their Terminals. He said Customs has the powers to do this under the CEMA.
According to him, the Customs Controller of each of the Commands at the Lagos Ports , is supposed to be carrying out the auctioning of overtime containers at the Government warehouse every Monday ,to create space ,at the facility , so that such containers at the Terminals will be transferred to there to avoid congestion of the terminals.
The ex Customs boss said that there has always been a government warehouse in every seaport and airport adding that .it has been one of the most important facilities of the Customs, a development that made it mandatory for the appointment of an officer to take care of the warehouse.
He said two days after goods have been discharged by vessels at the terminal , each of the terminal operators will send detail information of goods to the Customs, and 28 days after , the Customs according to Section 31 of the CEMA will take note of the cargoes that are yet to be delivered to the owners.
According to him,’’ the Customs Controller at the Command will take account of how many containers that have been seized or detained by the customs, and how many have been transported to neighboring countries among others.So later, the terminals would be informed of the number of containers that have not been delivered to the owners ,and be asked to transfer them to the Government warehouses.
‘’The Terminal operators must transfer such overtime containers to the warehouse, 48 hours after the receipt of the Notice from Customs ,through the uncleared cargo list (UCL) , so that there would be space in the terminals for incoming cargoes.
‘’Then the Customs will publish the list of the containers in the National Papers to inform the public that such containers are in the Government warehouse and that the owners need to come over to clear them within 50 days , failure which the Customs will dispose off them through auction’’ Ahmed stated..
He said for those goods that the owners are yet to take delivery of them after 15 days , the Area Controller of the affected Command will then appoint an officer who will join hands with the Government Warehouse keeper to make an assessment of the goods ,in each container,. in terms of the duty, the cost of transporting it to the warehouse and the cost of rent .
‘’They will then add the total cost, with three per cent of the money for the auctioneer , after which , an auctioned price would be given to the auctioneer to sell the goods .A day before the auction is done , the government warehouse would be opened to the public for them to view the goods.
‘’So if the auctioneer is told to sell each container at N500, 000 on the day of the auction, he will announce the price and if the highest bidder is N400,000 , it would not be sold but returned to Government warehouse.If later they now buy it for N600,000, it would be sold , then the cost of duty, transportation rent and three per cent of the auctioneer would be deducted and paid’’.,
He said as for the N100, 000 balance , the owner of the good is expected to apply for it within one year so that it can be given to him, but if it does not, the money would then be returned to the government.This is because , for the owner of the goods to have refused to clear it from the ports, is not an offence, in the first place .
The ex- Customs CG said it could be that the goods enter demurrage and he could not raise money to pay , or that he could not afford to pay the duty or the owner died ,or any other issue must have cropped up to make him not to clear the goods.
- Read the detailed interview of Alhaji Bello Ahmed in the next edition of the Marineandeconomy Magazine and Online.