OVER 10,000 abandoned overtime containers currently litter the Lagos Ports Complex in Apapa, Lagos uncleared. This is even as the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), revealed that some of the overtime containers have been inside the ports before the 2006 port concession.
Cargoes are classified as overtime when they have stayed in the port for twenty-eight days without the importer or clearing agent coming up to clear them and take delivery.
Speaking to newsmen on Wednesday, the Public Relations Officer of the Apapa Area Command of the NCS, Nkiru Nwala blamed the high cost of transportation as the reason why it cannot transfer overtime cargoes from Apapa port to the government warehouse in Ikorodu.
According to Nwala, “it costs N550,000 to move a twenty-foot container from Apapa to Jibowu, a suburb of Lagos – a cost which the Command cannot afford to bear.”
Nwala added that the Command’s Controller, Abubakar Bashir, was in talks with the Port Manager Lagos Port Complex Apapa, Hajia Aisha Ali-Ibrahim and terminal operators at the port to support it in moving the overtime cargoes out of the port to avoid port congestion.
She said, “To pick a container from Apapa port to Jibowu is N550,000, so for now, the modalities to get the containers out is being worked out.
“Using barges is not also cheap. Some are using train and sometimes you will see that the train breaks down. It is a whole lot of challenges but talks are ongoing. Even for barges, where and where are the clear routes for barges to sail through?
“The Controller has met with NPA Port Manager, but the question is who will foot the bill the containers have accumulated?
There are some that have been here before the terminal was concessioned. We are gathering the figure on the number of overtime containers.”
Nwala said that compiling the list of overtime cargoes was a complicated issue, saying that there were some clearing agents with genuine cases who finished all necessary clearance but due to the bad road network, could not take delivery of their containers.
She said, “We have had a meeting with NPA. Overtime cargo means after 28 days, but for the past one year, you cannot finish clearing your cargo from the port and for a whole month you will not get a truck to go in and move it out.”