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Following the reversal of the ban placed on use barges to move containers at Nigerian seaports by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN) and the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has commended the Comptroller General of Customs (CGC), Hameed Ali.
However, the duo was quick to warn members to refrain from acts inimical to rules of engagements and standard operating procedures on barge movement.
Addressing members and the media in Apapa recently, BOAN President, Mr. Edeme Kelikume, warned that any barge operator who violates the laid down rules guiding barge operation will be made to face the law accordingly.
According to him, “Whereas we commend the Comptroller General of Customs Hameed Ali for swiftly retracting the decision to ban barging activities due to one or two infractions by a few members of the association that we are yet to identify”, we would not condole acts capable of embarrassing the association.
“The Customs boss has heeded to the cry of stakeholders who pointed to him and his management that this was not the right step at a time when the country is faced with global pandemic and at a time when the crude oil has crashed to the new level and is a threat to devaluation of the currency.
“We need to ensure that our seaports are functioning very well to trade so that the country can generate revenue to sustain our populace.
“We want to assure the customs hierarchy that the barge operators and the ANLCA and other law abiding Nigerians will work with them and support them and help them to achieve their objectives of ensuring that cargoes move into the country safely and that there is trade facilitation in the country and in doing that we are giving them our full commitment that whenever they call upon us for engagement, we will give them our support and our ears to work with at all times.
“And by so doing, we want to warn all our members both from ANLCA side and Barge operators side that any member that is found engaging in illegal activities, we will not hesitate, as long as we can identify the member, to report him or her to the right regulatory authority so that they can bring them to justice as quickly as possible”, Kelikume indicated.
Kelikume recalled that “The system which was introduced last year in Lagos has being in place in places like Warri a long time ago; and it has turned out to be of great relief, as it has reduced the issue of container falling on people and all other mishaps conjoined with traffic gridlock in Lagos to minimal level”.
BOAN averred that about 300 TEU containers were moved through barges last year in Lagos, adding that “if we were to rate our performance now, we are on 30% performance now due to what is happening in the nation. We are still in operation, but on minimal basis.”
While explaining that BOAN had registered only 30 members in Lagos with the Nigerian Ports Authority unlike in Warri that has being in existence for long, Kelikume decried that barge operations service lacks capacity development and lacks accessibility to cabotage funds,
He stressed further that “High cost of equipment is really slowing than our figures of output. We are not fully accessible to APMT and you all know that access to barge operation is very important just as safety is of importance.”
Corroborating BOAN boss, ANLCA President, Mr. Iju Tony Nwabunike noted that the Customs has the right to suspend barge operations if it was believed the gesture was no longer in the overall interest of cargo facilitation and revenue generation, but stressed that its important for operators to build good working relationship with the NCS and relevant stakeholders’ “so that we can have a wonderful relationship that will truly facilitate trade and generate revenue, for the good of the nation’s economy, the barge operators and ANLCA.”
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