Freight forwarders and customs licensed agents operating at the Lagos ports have expressed dissatisfaction with the management of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) as they have accused the agency of harassing them with the issue of port pass.
The agents have therefore warned the agency to stop harassing them, insisting that they are bonafide tenants in the ports who should be given due respect.
In a chat with Shipping Position Daily last week at Tin-Can Island Ports Lagos, a member of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Mr. Suleiman Adeola, queried the management of the NPA on how many identity cards they are supposed to be carrying before they can be allowed into the ports.
He reiterated that it is totally wrong for the agency to still be asking for port pass when the ports have been concessioned to terminal operators. He insisted that it is the work of the terminal operators to ask for access cards and which they have been doing.
“NPA started asking for port pass before you can have access into the port premises, we don’t know how many ID cards they want us to carry about, NPA has started asking for port pass which is very wrong because the ports have been privatized and each terminal now controls their access gates”
“Grimaldi for example have since introduced access cards at their own terminals, why would NPA ask for access cards again? NPA said we should apply for port pass which we did, but to our surprise, they rejected out letters, saying that they have stopped issuing port passes with no reason. They have stopped issuing port pass, so why are they now asking for port pass again?
In his opinion, the Tin-Can Chapter Administrator of ANLCA, Mr. Ojo Akintoye said it was NPA that rented out office spaces to the clearing agents, adding that it is wrong to now deny them access to their offices on account of port pass.
“Nobody is saying that ports should not be a restricted area, but it has to do with the areas that have been in existence. I did not give myself an office here, it was NPA that gave me office here and they gave out offices to people everywhere around the ports”
“So because you don’t want me to enter the ports you want to deny me access to my office"
Ojo queried if the access cards being demanded by the management of the NPA will take the place of the entry permits already issued to them by the terminal operators.
“You sold all your properties to personal companies and these personal companies are issuing entry permits for whoever that wants to access their terminal, and yet you are here asking for port pass. The port pass they are forcing us to collect now is for what purpose? to enter where?
Ojo disclosed that agents pay at least N10, 000 to get the port pass from NPA, even as he added that with the way the ports are being managed, the nation’s maritime industry may soon collapse.
He urged the agency to call a meeting of all the stakeholders for synergy on the way forward.
“They gave offices to those that sell food here, would NPA now deny them access? are they not collecting rent from them? Those people that sell food, who do you think they sell to? these are the things that they need to sit down and look at. My own take on the issue is that they should have a meeting with all the stakeholders”
“Lets us discuss how we can work this thing out, not that you will just sit down one day and say I should not come to my office, where is it done? My secretary should not come to my office; she does not have anything to do in the ports. If they had counted all these places as port area why did they make this place as an office area?”
“If they want us to be out of this place completely, it is not a crime, they should give us time to get an office elsewhere.”