The Nigerian Ports Authority has cited multiple checkpoints mounted outside the port gates by men of the Nigeria Customs Service as the cause of the perpetual gridlock.
The Managing Director, NPA, Hadiza Bala-Usman, who was represented by the Lagos Port Manager, Mrs Bola Olotu, made the charge during a recent stakeholders’ meeting in Lagos.
At the meeting, which was organised by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, to discuss the ease of doing business at the ports, Bala-Usman urged the NCS to automate its processes to reduce human contact and streamline activities of its various units.
Faulting the multiple checkpoints outside the port gates, she noted that goods that had been duly cleared from the port were subjected to scrutiny outside the port, thereby causing gridlock.
She called on the Customs Service to make good its campaign of sanctioning corrupt officers who sometimes cleared some of the questionable cargoes.
According to her, sometimes when a container is found wanting, Customs are always quick to arrest the clearing agents and importers, without exposing the officers that appended their signature on the documents, releasing the cargo.
She said, “We kept wondering, every time we talk of non-compliance, everything is always blamed on the clearing agents and the importer, but what we are asking is that somebody signed these import documents at the port, a Customs official endorsed the documents to have been in order and the goods exited the port.
“But as soon as the cargo is out of the port, there is another unit stopping people, checking the same documents and compounding the traffic situation. When this happens, the truckers are not willing to proceed on their journey, you would see them parking along with the common user areas of the port access road.
“Oftentimes, when you ask them to please move, if it is at night, they would tell you that they are prone to attacks or they would tell you they are trying to clear themselves with the next Customs unit which is still ahead.
She said the Customs had explained that the Federal Operations Unit of the NCS was there to ensure that everything was in order and that they also had the strike force team that performed the same duty.
“We now asked a question, can’t they start looking at harmonising some of these units? If there is automation, all units of the Customs would get to know what is being cleared out of the port and who signed the documents out,” she said
Bala-Usman then appealed for the procurement of scanning machines to ease cargo examination at the Nigerian ports, even as she lamented that Nigeria could not continue to carry out 100 per cent examination of the consignment at the port.
“We need scanners at our ports. It would reduce some of the challenges. If we have scanners, we wouldn’t have to conduct much physical examinations and expose Customs officers to having a direct interface with those importing cargoes,” she said.

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