THE Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, has been accused of contributing to the current congestions being experienced in the ports as empty containers that ought to have been inspected by the men and officers of the agency are abandoned for days on barges at the terminals’ waterfronts. Speaking to Vanguard Maritime Report during an inspection tour of some port facilities by the Presidential Task Force on the Restoration of Law and Order on the Port Access Road, a staff of Port and Cargo Handling Company Limited, who refused to give his name said that the Customs do not come to inspect empty containers because there is no money to be made.
But in a reaction, the Customs public relations officer, Tin-Can Island Port Customs Command, Mr Uche Ejieseme, said that the Customs was not responsible for the delay in the examination of empty containers. Ejieseme said that instead of being accused of contributing to the congestion at the ports, Customs should be commended for coming up with the idea of moving empty containers by barges, thereby freeing the roads for smooth movement of traffic.
He said: “The insinuation that Customs is contributing to port congestion is unfounded and untrue. It was the idea of the Customs Area Comptroller, CAC, to move empty containers back to the ports. The empty containers were causing some constraints, we got provisional approval to use a barge to move them. It was the CAC that muted the idea. We expect the Customs to be commended instead of being blamed for the problem of the ports. “As far as we are concerned, we consulted with all stakeholders to use this mode of transportation to move empty containers. The operation is a joint operation, no single agency can do it alone. All stakeholders must be present at the point of examination of the container whether empty or laden. Whatever is happening now should be seen as a teething problem in trying to solve the Apapa traffic gridlock.” As at the time of this report, there were a number of barges with empty containers on them awaiting Customs inspection before they are off-loaded on to the terminals. The continued stay of these barges on the quaysides of the ports constituted an additional burden on the shipping services as they occupied berthing spaces meant for vessels.