Chief Peter Tompang, the PRO of Apapa chapter of NAGAFF.
Story by Dili Utomi.
Chief Peter Tompang is the public relations officer of the Apapa chapter of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), a focused albeit fiery critic of the inefficiency and rot within the maritime sector, but with particular emphasis on the cargo movement and storage around the nation’s Ports and Cargo Terminals. He took out time to speak with us in a question and answer session on the thorny issue of Port congestion.
Question. Sir, there is a common agreement that the Apapa Port is congested, what do you think is the course of this congestion?
Answer. Really, the Port is congested and it is as a result of over time cargoes that have not been moved to the appropriate place, there are some cases where the Customs has done its job, but they cannot do anything on them, by taking the further steps necessary to get the cargoes out of the Port. Any cargo that has anything to do with foods and drugs would have been handed over to NAFDAC, but NAFDAC has been keeping these containers in the Ports as if that is their warehouse. They have not been evucuating these cargoes that have been handed over to them. It is the same story with those that have been handed over to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), they have also not evacuated the cargoes that have hard drugs related issues and that have been handed over to them. This situation is what is obtained in various Ports of the Federation and the necessary action has not been taken. We have over three hundred containers littering the Ports without the necessary evacuation as a result of these enumerated issues.
The Customs should get the the over time containers that have gone through the process of condemnation and then auction same. Leaving these inside the Port is not helping anybody because that also causes problems for the country as they are foreign boxes imported with goods inside, the owners count their demurrage and there is the consequent revenue losses and also the increase in the debt profile of the country.
Question. Sir, is the Customs Ikorodu warehouse congested and again, the other Agencies of government like NAFDAC, NDLEA and SON, are they not supposed to have their own warehouses for the storage of seized items?
Answer. The problem is that they have taken possession of the items, but that they have not been able to physically take them out for destruction, this goes for all the Agencies of government. Sometimes the Customs does secret auctioning, but that is not enough to decongest the Ports.
Question. How come you can see these from the outside with all the solutions that you are proffering and the government Agencies are not, is it a case of lack of political will or what?
Answer. It is either that somebody is sleeping somewhere or the usual I don’t care attitude. What is there generally is that the Customs are supposed auction the cargoes that due diligence has been done on. This issue of congestion is one of the reasons why our Ports are not being patronised by the land locked countries. There is also the issue of export. Sometimes we need referred containers to ship out cargos that are perishable. I have tried on several occasions to export yams to Europe and America and on both occasions, the yams got cooked in the containers along the way. This type of goods require containers that have regulated temperatures in other to forestall perishing. The containers needed for such exports should be available to encourage export.
Question. What advice would you give to the government to solve this problems sir?
Answer. The knowledge is there because government usually does not employ unqualified persons into its Agencies. I repeat that it is a case of I don’t care attitude, negligence. Now, in most cases, these Agencies will tell you that they are doing 24 hours services, but in reality what they are doing is mere skeletal services, no one is really engaging in 24 hour service at the Ports and this should be what they should render- 24 hour service at all our Ports. The three major operators, the Customs, the Terminal Operators and the Shipping companies should offer 24 hour service. There should be real 24 hours services, with dedication to duty and this should be carried out in a manner of putting the personnel on shift duty to engender efficiency.
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