Dredge PH Port for higher revenue collection — Customs boss

The Customs Area Controller (CAC) of Area 1 Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Austin Warikoru, has stressed the need for the dredging of the Port Harcourt port channel for higher revenue collection for the federal government.
Speaking with DDH in his office recently, Warikoru said a deeper channel would not only improve cargo throughput but would result in higher revenue accruable to government from goods brought into the country through the port by bigger vessels. He said that he is presently liaising with the state government and the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to ensure that the roads leading to the port are repaired.
On revenue collection by the Command, he said unlike his last posting in Lagos, Port Harcourt is quieter and more peaceful but expressed worry about the low level of revenue collection by the Command.
He noted that the Command has been able to collect about N14.3 billion between January and August this year while the target for the same period is N33 billion; pointing out that only bulk cargo comprising fish and petroleum products come through the port, although some containerised cargoes are now being shipped also.
Warikoru said that with bigger containerised vessels government would get more revenue compared to the light carriers which presently call at the port, explaining that he would strive to implement government policy to the letter and provide good directive to officers and men of the Command to achieve the purpose of government for the Service.

The statistics displayed on the board in his office showed that the Command collected its highest revenue, more than N2b (N2,634,578,829.17), in the month of August when Warikoru was redeployed there. The highest revenue raked in by the Command before Warikoru’s arrival was N2,570,421,740.46 in June, followed by N1,830,629,171.61 in July, N1,818,197,921.61 in March, N1,537,104,312.35 in May and N1,318,363,334..38 in January respectively. The lowest revenue collected by the Command during the period was in the months of February and April when it got N779,611,020.53 and N915,086,376.32 respectively.


N750 million cargo scanner idle in Calabar port

A cargo scanner installed by Global Scansysystems Ltd and valued at over 5 million dollars (N750 million) has been under-utilised at the Calabar port, the Chief Executive Officer of the firm, Mr Fred Udechukwu has said. He said in Calabar that one year after his firm installed the HCV Mobile scanner, it had only performed less than 5 per cent of its installed capacity.
Udechukwu said that activities had remained at low ebb in the port since the firm arrived in 2006 because ships were not coming. “All the berths at the ports are often empty, because the ships are not coming”, he said.
Explaining further, he said the company only handled 20 Single Goods Declaration Forms (SGD) in one month, an indication that only 20 consignments  were being scanned on average per month but that the company incurred huge amounts on salaries of its workers at the port and also spent a lot of money on diesel to power its generators.
The chief executive said that unless the Federal Government dredged the Calabar port for bigger ships to berth, activities might remain low, saying that no ship owner would want his ship to run aground in the port. He revealed that only smaller vessels come into the port with consignments.
Udechukwu said his company had been servicing huge loans borrowed from banks in procuring some of its facilities because the scanning was not progressing at the expected pace even though he described Calabar as a ``peaceful city’’ that should able to attract large imports if government could dredge the river.
On what they planned to do about the situation, he said his firm would not relent in its efforts to ensure that contraband goods were not brought into the port. Some contraband that he said were recently uncovered included textiles smuggled into the port.

Restive communities forcefully taking over NPA lands
... youths storm ports to collect money

Restive communities in the Niger Delta area are forcefully taking over landed properties belonging to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) over alleged illegal acquisition by the government in the first place, even as operators express worry about restive youths going to the ports to extort monies from management.
Disclosing this in Port Harcourt yesterday, the Port Manager of Port Harcourt, Mr Ade Alabi, in a paper titled “The Economic Imperatives of Reviving Eastern Ports :Peculiar challenges in Port Harcourt Port” organised by the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN).
The Port Manager explained that the communities say that most of the properties were illegally taken from them and insist that compensation most be paid to them if the lands should be left with the Authority.
He noted that presently these communities have begun taking over their properties and have actually commenced construction of buildings on them, explaining that the development of the eastern ports would help engage indigenes of these communities to keep them from the restiveness in the region presently.
Alabi, who was represented by the traffic manager, M. N. Ezeoko, said that they have not done anything about the development because they did not want to apply force in re-acquisition of the land. According to him, “One of the major challenges we are facing is that of encroachment of our (NPA) land by host communities, especially in the Bonny area.”

Similarly, Chairman of the Board of Trustee (BOT) and newly appointed commissioner in Imo state, Chief Henry Njoku, said that restive youths storm the ports to collect money from the port management.
Njoku noted efforts to keep the youths in check through their various traditional rulers but even the chiefs are complaining that they cannot do anything because the youths would not listen to them.
The new Commissioner further pointed out that the traditional rulers said if they insisted on the control of the youths, they (youths) would go as far as burning down their houses. He therefore charged government to take it as a matter of urgency to develop facilities and other infrastructure needed for the full exploitation of the potential of the ports in the eastern zone, as this would help reduce the restiveness in the region. 

NPA half year revenue drops by N11b, spends N22b on capital projects

The projected revenue of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for the first half of the year was short by N11 billion, even as the Authority cut its expenditure by as much as N47.5 billion during the same period under review. These were disclosed by the Authority’s Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Mr. Adetola Atekoja in Abuja recently when the management appeared before the House Committee on Marine Transport to present its 2009 half year performance report.
Atekoja told the members that out of the projected  revenue of N57 billion for the half year, the Authority has generated N46 billion, and out of a total expenditure of N69.5 billion the Authority incurred N22 billion within the  same period.
The Executive Director explained that the global melt down and attendant credit squeeze had affected the revenue generation capacity of the Authority in relation to traffic and harbour dues which were dependent on international trade.
A press statement by the Assistant General Manager (AGM) in charge of Public Affairs, Musa Iliya, quoted the Executive Director as saying that due to the late approval of the Authority's 2009 budget, its capital expenditure could not commence and therefore not much was expended in the provision.
Mr. Atekoja told the members that in accordance with the approval granted, the Authority has remitted the sum of $10 million to the Federation Account as part of its operating surplus, adding that the Authority had also settled all its current tax obligations with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
Before adopting the report, the Chairman House Committee on Marine Transport, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi commended the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for upholding the tenets of transparency and accountability in the utilization of public funds.
Honourable Ugwuanyi explained that the Committee has always maintained that budgetary provisions as approved by the National Assembly "are constitutional and therefore sacrosanct", adding that, to ensure this, the Committee maintains routine monitoring of public expenditure.
He also stressed that the management would focus on capital expenditure in the last quarter of this year which is tailored towards the realization of the Authority's vision of being the leading port in Africa, he assured.

This, he said, would enable the Authority to provide for the acquisition of necessary working tools, marine crafts and wreck removal equipment as well as the provision of conducive working environment to facilitate the realization of the vision.


CRFFN denial involvement in NCMDLCA’s leadership crisis

The Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), the apex regulatory body for the freight forwarding profession in the country, has distanced itself and its chairman from the leadership crisis rocking the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA).
Speaking in Lagos recently, the council’s executive chairman, Mr. Tony Iju-Nwabunike, faulted the embattled President of NCMDLCA, Mr. Lucky Amiwero’s alleged claim in the media of the involvement of himself (Iju-Nwabunike) or the council in his removal as president of the association.
The council had recently in an extra ordinary general meeting impeached Mr. Lucky Amiwero, its former national president, who had spent 13 years in office over allegations of financial impropriety, highhandedness, lack of probity and accountability and abuse of office.
According to Amiwero, “I want to categorically state here, that, neither myself, nor the CRFFN, has anything whatsoever to do with the recent crisis rocking the NCMDLCA leadership”, he asserted.
He noted that there has not been any official complaint or report to the council from the NCMDLCA over the crisis rocking the association and that whatever he knows about the crisis was what he read on the pages of newspapers like many other Nigerians and other industry practitioners.
He pointed out that as a regulatory agency, it is not in the character of the CRFFN to interfere in the day-day running or internal politics of associations in the industry, wondering how long it could do that leaving the onerous task of sanitizing the freight forwarding industry.
According to Nwabunike, “The CRFFN as a regulatory body of freight forwarders and freight forwarders’ associations does not interfere in the internal affairs of any association except when requested to do so. Furthermore the CRFFN cannot beg to interfere in the internal affairs of any association”, he argued.
“While I deeply share in the grief of my esteemed good friend, a notable, a respectable colleague and a foremost leader, Mr. Amiwero, but for him to point accusing fingers at my person and alleging that the CRFFN under my leadership is party to his woes is indeed unfortunate and regrettable”, he stated.
On the purported meeting held at the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), where it was alleged that an out of court settlement was brokered between the council and Mr. Amiwero, the chairman noted that he is not aware of any such meeting. He argued that as a law abiding citizen and ardent respecter of the rule of law, he is not obliged to comment on the matter since it is before a court of competent jurisdiction and which is the arbiter on the matter.

While assuring that he would not take sides on any issue that concerns the freight forwarding associations and their members, he also pledged that the CRFFN under his leadership would not leave any stone unturned in ensuring that peace, justice and desired leadership in the industry duly prevail in the freight forwarding industry, noting that freight forwarders at all times are reputed for integrity and maturity in resolving conflicts.


KLT Customs command intercepts double-barrel gun, ammunition.

The Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT) Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has intercepted a double-barrel gun and 90 rounds of ammunition being smuggled into the country, even as it arrested one suspect believed to be an agent to the importer. The weapons were hidden in a carton inside a 40-footer container at the SVD bonded terminal under the command. Following the discovery of the items, officials of the command had detained both the suspect and all the other items in the container.
Disclosing this in Lagos recently, the Deputy Controller of Customs in charge of enforcement, Aliyu .T. Tukur, revealed that the two luxury cars (a jeep and an Honda) and other personal belongings in the container are not contraband but they have been detained because they are imported with the contraband consignment. Tukur said the incident was reported to the customs headquarters and were directed to head over the double-barrel gun and the ammunition, as well as the case file to the port police for further investigation.
Handing over the seized items, the suspect and the case file to the police, the Customs enforcement boss said that they have concluded their assignment and urged them to continue from where they stop to ensure that justice is done.
Receiving the items, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) in charge of Port Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Mohammed Jimoh, thanked him for a job well done and assured that the police would carry out a thorough investigation to ascertain the truth. Jimoh noted that those found guilty would be charged to court for justice to take its cause.
However, the suspect who refused to identify himself said he is not the agent to the importer but was only assisting a fellow agent because he is an executive of the KLT chapter command of Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA). Asked whether he knows the agent to the importer, he answered in the affirmative but noted that he does not know where the said agent lives.

Customs intercepts 6 train coaches of contraband goods worth N100m

The anti-smuggling operatives of the Federal Operations Unit ,Zone ‘C’ of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), has intercepted six fully loaded train coaches of contraband goods worth about N100 million being smuggled through the railway in Enugu. The seized items include used tyres and clothes, textile materials, candies, soap made and vegetable oil.
A press statement signed by Joseph Attah, acting public relations officer of the service, noted that the Controller of the unit, Emmanuel Kane, expressed disappointment over the attitude of some Nigerians who still engage in acts of economic sabotage despite the sincere efforts of the Federal Government towards achieving vision 2020 and the much-talked about re-branding.

It also explained that Kane said that the new spirit brought about by the Comptroller General of Customs, Dikko Inde Abdullahi MFR, has re-invigorated the service to deal decisively with all forms of smuggling; saying that this seizure is a clear signal of what the new Customs is poised to do to make smuggling highly unprofitable.
The goods have been transferred to government warehouse while investigations  to fish out the smugglers continue.

Cabotage: Shipowners arrest fifth vessel for illegal bunkering

The Indigenous Shipowners Association of Nigeria (ISAN) has arrested a fifth vessel in its bid to rid the Nigerian coastal waters of foreign ships engaged in illegal bunkering contrary to the Cabotage law.
The arrested vessel, M.T. Union Triumph, had brought in about 5,000 metric tons of Automated Gas Oil (AGO) to Fishery wharf jetty from a mother ship berthed outside the nation’s waters.
Disclosing the latest arrest in Lagos recently, Chairman of ISAN, Chief Isaac Jolapamo, said that ISAN is determined to legally fight for their rights before foreign shipowners completely run them out of business like they have done in most countries in the sub-region.
According to him, “We could not afford to continue to fold our arms and watch helplessly as foreigners destroy our sector. We had to make a bold move by engaging the services of lawyers to arrest vessels that flout the Cabotage Law.”
“So far, we have obtained court orders to effect the arrest of five vessels at different times in the last two months. The vessels are M.T. Makhambet, M.T. Lovell Sea, M.T. Union Grace, M.T. Union Force and M.T. Torrent. Two more vessels escaped before the warrant could be served on them. They are M.T. Union Pride and M.T. Union Triumph.”
Jolapamo explained that since the Cabotage law came into being five years ago, ISAN members are the worse for it because even the little jobs that they used to do before are all gone.
He noted that their “vessels are lying idle and running costs without jobs to do. Most of us have been unable to pay salaries and service our loan facilities for upward of eight months. Several of us have even pawned properties and other assets to make ends meet.”  
He further disclosed that there was nothing wrong with the law as it is but blamed the government agency responsible for its enforcement. Jolapamo also accused all the various government agencies in the sector of connivance with the foreign shipowners to undermine the Law.
“The flagrant disregard for the law is not necessarily due to lapses in it but essentially due to the inability of the implementing agency to enforce the provision of the law. There is serious conspiracy and collusion by all the government agencies as well as unscrupulous Nigerian business concerns. This has led to the stubborn resistance of the Cabotage Law on the part of foreign shipowners and operators. These foreign operators/owners are mostly of Asian origin, mostly Indians and Pakistanis and a few European country nationals”, he said.

On the update of the five ships arrested so far, the ISAN boss said that “the case of M.T. Makhambet, the first vessel we arrested on the orders of the federal high court, Lagos, has proceeded to the appeal court, the case of the other four vessels is pending determination at the federal high court” he concluded.