· NAFDAC Says Clearing Agents Engage In Unwholesome Practices.
Freight Forwarders in the nation’s maritime industry have confirmed the recent verdict of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) about the high prevalence of corruption in Nigerian ports.
The anti-graft agency had last week rated the nation’s seaport system very low in the area of anti-corruption, even as it acknowledged that the maritime sector is very critical to the nation’s economy.
The ICPC ‘s verdict on the Nigerian ports system was given by the Chairman of the ICPC; Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye at a meeting in Abuja between the Minister of Transportation; Mr Rotimi Amaechi and stakeholders on the implementation of the Nigerian Port Process Manual.
Similarly, the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, had also accused clearing agents at the nation’s seaports and airports of unwholesome practices.
Adeyeye in a statement by the Director of Ports Inspection in the agency, Prof. Samson Adebayo, raised alarm over the activities of agents at the sea and airports, saying they indulge in the forgery of documents.
While insisting that offenders would be prosecuted when caught, NAFDAC warned clearing agents that where such sharp practices occur, the names of such erring agents would be compiled and sent to the office of the Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service for sanctions.
Conceding to the allegations by NAFDAC and ICPC, freight forwarders told Shipping Position Daily last week in Lagos, that indeed Nigerian ports are corruption-riddled.
The freight forwarders also agreed with the recent negative ranking of Nigeria by Transparency International (TI) in its new Corruption Perception Index (CPI).
The freight forwarders singled out the Nigerian port system as one of the major sectors where corruption thrives in the country.
Reacting to the poor ranking, founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight forwarders (NAGAFF) Dr. Boniface Aniebonam in a telephone chat with our correspondent, stated that corruption in the Nigeria Port system is beyond rating.
The NAGAFF founder described the Nigeria port system as a jungle where everybody does what he likes, while asking the President to declare state of emergency at the nation’s ports.
“We have gone beyond the issue of corruption in the Nigeria port system, what we are talking about now is system collapse, the place is like a jungle; you do what you like, nobody is charge.”
Also speaking, the Vice President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA); Mr Kayode Farinto agreed that the Nigeria port system is riddled with corruption, confirming that the Transparency International rating is a true reflection of Nigeria corruption level.
Analyzing how deep corruption has gone in the country, especially within the port system, the ANLCA Vice alleged that, for example, the construction company in charge of the Tin Can Island road reconstruction is being bribed to slow down the pace of the construction, so as to allow some people rake-in millions of Naira through the traffic congestion.
According to him, “there is no doubt about it, we cannot be deceiving ourselves, these things are happening in the industry, let me take the manual call-up system for example, we took our time in the night to investigate, and we saw the unethical things that are happening; how police have hijacked the call-up, making money to the extent that now the people that are constructing the road are being given money at night to discourage them and slow down the pace of work, that is how the level of corruption in Nigeria has become, we did this investigation at 2am, it was only God that saved us”.
Farinto also alleged that there is high level of corruption among the shipping companies, Nigeria Customs Service and other government agencies at the port.
“A lot of things are wrong, shipping companies want importers to pay through their nose, we have a situation now wherein to bring in an empty container is a problem, ideally the shipping companies are supposed to bring the empties to their holding bays, but nobody is queering them, meanwhile the deposit that importers pay is depleting on a daily basis”.
“For instance, when a vessel berths, importer starts paying demurrage, while his consignment is still on board the vessel and yet to be stacked and nobody queries anybody, so every sector and department in the port are riddled with corruption. When you manage to bring your consignment out of the ports, we have officials of NPA, NCS, with about five vehicles booking and holding consignment conducting examination just before our very eyes, and nothing has been done about it,
“So, the TI report is not biased, it is apt, and that is why we have to stand up, and don’t forget that, it is not in line with international best practices”, he said.
On his part, the National Coordinator, Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders Importers-Exporters Coalition (SNFFIEC); Chief Osita Chukwu also lamented how bad corruption has eaten deep into the Nigeria port system. He also called on the federal government to declare state of emergency owing to the level of corruption in the Nigeria Port system.