The Nigerian Importers Integrity Association (NIIA) has called on the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and other relevant agencies including the Nigeria Customs Service, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to halt the activities of unregulated private jetties and oil service centres that have converted their facilities to container terminals.
The President of the association, Godwin Onyekazi, said some private jetties operating on the Kirikiri channel and oil service facilities now engage in handling containers.
He said, “Hundreds of empty containers are loaded from unlicensed jetties on the Kirikiri channel onto big barges which then discharge these containers in neighboring countries. It is not clear who licensed these barge operators and the jetties, if these barges and jetties are registered with all relevant authorities and finally if they are paying the statutory dues to NPA and all other governmental agencies”
He said while waiting for the authorities to address these concerns, it is clear that the operators are in breach of existing regulations.
“Only port operators, concessioned by the Federal Government through NPA can engage in container handling operations. Loading of empties from any other facility is illegal and should be investigated.
“The jetties in question are now illegally operating as container terminals. Empty containers are loaded from sub-standard jetty in Kirikiri on barges and sail straight out of Nigeria to the ports of neighboring countries, especially to Cotonou and Lome ports.
“This trend is dangerous, as it poses serious economic and security implications for Nigeria. Who licensed the jetties as container terminals? Who is monitoring their activities? Nigeria is so volatile now that we cannot afford this sort of lapses in our port operation.
“Unscrupulous persons try to beat the various economic and security checks put in place at the main ports where all the security agencies are present. Can you then imagine what will be happening in jetties that do not have strong regulatory and security mechanisms? This not to talk of the safety aspect, which is totally neglected,” he said.
Onyekazi said the illegal container terminal operators have been handling empty containers on sub-standard jetties for various shipping lines, and may evolve into handling laden containers if their activities remain unchecked by NPA and other government agencies.