…Says Clearing Agents are the Problem of Fees Collection
By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Lagos State Government Wharf Landing Fee Collecting Authority has announced that it has approached the State Assembly for an upward review of the wharf landing fee which is collected on all Imported goods into Nigeria through Lagos ports.
Chairman of the agency, Chief Adegboyega Salvador Adebayo gave the hint on Monday when he received executives of the Importers Association of Nigeria (IMAN) led by its National President, Hon Kingsley Chikezie at the agency’s corporate office in Apapa Lagos.
The Wharf Landing Fees Law No. 5 of 2009 was introduced during the regime of Babatunde Fashola to empower the Lagos State Government to collect various sums of money as fees from goods that land at the Lagos Ports of Apapa and Tin Can Island.
Under the law, various levies, which vary from N300 to N1,000 were imposed on consignments transported from Lagos ports to other parts of the state and the country.
After collection, the fee according to Salvador is being shared among the 57 local government areas in the State. He explained that the money is paid directly to government purse, and that officials of the agency do not touch any money but are paid by Lagos government.
He however lamented that after thirteen years of collection, the funds are no longer adequate and there is need for an increase.
“For thirteen years now, we are not supposed to remain on the same amount of N300 to N1000 because the Dollar exchange rate is no longer the same, the value of the collection is no longer the same, the local government areas are crying, that is why you see their touts outside along the roads
“If the Chairman of any local government area tell you that they do not know about the presence of these boys collecting money from vehicles, they are lying, this is because the money coming to them is no longer adequate
“So, definitely, we need to review the collection, so that the local government receiving N5million can collect N15million or N20million, with this, there would be no illegal collections in the road” he said
Salvador also stated that the agency is now working in collaboration with the Nigerian Shippers Council’s Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) in order to clear the port access roads of shanties and hoodlums impersonating wharf landing collecting agents, thereby ripping the agency of needed revenue.
Salvador also blamed the clearing agents as one of the impediment to the fees collection. According to him, the clearing agents collect huge amounts from importers as wharf landing fee, but they usually do not pay the fees.
“With collaboration, would be able to reduce inflation caused by extortion and all illegal fees collected on the road, we hope that working with PSTT, IMAN and other agencies, we would be able to return Apapa back to its old glory.
“But more importantly, our mandate is to collect the wharf landing fee, and we believe that with this rapport with the IMAN, we would reduce the leakages. As at today, I believe we are not collecting more than 20percent of what we should be collecting
“There is a lot of leakages going on, and the money is usually paid by the Importers to the clearing agents, but the agents refuse to pay it. I have heard of some clearing agents collecting N50,000 as wharf landing fee on a car that is supposed to pay just N300”
“The IMAN are the critical stakeholders, the others are just in-between, if we can have a good rapport with you and you can pay directly to us, we don’t need anybody to stay on the roads.
“You are critical stakeholders, the owners of the cargoes, you suffer the brunt when your cargoes are impounded, but unfortunately, we have not known you before now.
“Floor Mills, Dangote and other companies pay their money directly to the accounts every month, we don’t stop them on the road, if IMAN can also get themselves organized like this, we would work seamlessly
Salvador said the agency is now making efforts to digitalise collection of the wharf landing fee, such that it’s collecting staff would no longer be see chasing vehicles on port access roads.
He told the visiting IMAN members that the Joint Tax Board approved the fee collection and the Ministry of Finance also did.
On his part, the IMAN President, Hon Kingsley Chikezie said that his members are lamenting seriously about the wharf landing fee collection and this was one of the reasons for the visit.
He also said that IMAN is on a mission to familiarize with the various stakeholders working with the Importers, in order to achieve seamless operations at the port.
“We are fully awake, and we want to assist trade facilitation and ease of doing business in Nigeria
“We are in complete support of the digitisation of the wharf landing fee collection, we don’t need to see people on the road , everybody is going digital now, as soon as we tidy up the clearing process, we can pay our fees directly
“This would increase revenue generation and reduce the clumsiness on the roads” he said
Reacting to allegations by the Wharf Landing Fee Collecting Authority Chairman that clearing agents are the major problem of the collection because they fail to remit the money, Chikezie assured that the Importers are ready to partner the government for prompt payment of the fee.
“We are their principal, it’s just like your house boy that you gave money to do a thing for you, he spent N1,000 and pocketed N4,000. We are their principal, whatever they tell us is what we do, but we are now out to take the bull by the horn” he assured.
On his part, the Deputy Chairman, South West of IMAN, Chief Austin Kelly said the visit marks a turning point for healthier working relationship between the government and the IMAN.