The Nigerian Port Authority has urged the Nigerian Customs to auction the abandoned overtime containers as they are occupying a chunk of the space meant for imported goods.
According to BusinessDay, the containers occupying space at Nigeria’s three major seaports, Apapa, Tin-Can Island, and Onne, have increased to over 6,000.
These 6,000 twenty-foot equivalent units of overtime containers were either abandoned by consignees or detained by Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) officers for a variety of reasons such as under declaration, false declaration, import duty infringement, and contraband.
According to the findings of BusinessDay, the containers have spent between 90 and 4,000 days in the ports and take up a lot of space at the terminals.
It was also discovered that the contents of some of the containers, particularly industrial chemicals, had expired after spending years at the ports, posing serious environmental and health risks to port users.
Further research reveals that there are over 1,000 vehicles and scraps at roll-on roll-off terminals that have spent years at the port and take up space at the port terminals.
According to the Customs Excise and Management Act, overtime cargoes are goods that have remained for 28 days without the consignee showing up to take delivery.
The law allows Customs to auction off overdue cargo after 90 days, but it has failed to do so for several years despite claiming to be conducting e-auctions.
This has resulted in an increase in overtime at the ports.
The Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) also has the authority to move overdue cargoes to Ikorodu Container Terminal, but the NPA’s management has encouraged Customs to conduct on-the-spot auctions due to the rising cost of transporting containers.
Rather than investing hundreds of billions of naira in evacuating overdue cargoes at a time when Nigeria is experiencing a cash crunch, the NPA suggested that the goods be sold at the ports, with buyers taking responsibility for moving them out of the ports.
Mu’azu Sambo, Nigeria’s transportation minister, expressed concern over the volume of overdue cargoes in Nigerian ports, saying the figure has become alarming as it has eaten deep into the space available for import discharge.
The cargoes, according to the minister, are now taking up strategic spaces, reducing government revenue at the ports.
According to Sambo, the situation has also become extremely concerning because some of the cargoes have expired and may explode at the port.
He stated that the increasing volume of overdue containers at the ports was heightening concerns about port congestion.
“The contents of most of those longstanding containers have expired. Customs should either auction or destroy them, and they can also carry out on-the-spot auctioning without having to spend money to move those goods out of the port,” Anekebe continued.
Emma Nwabunwanne, a Lagos-based importer, said addressing the issue of overdue containers would help terminal operators decongest the ports, and that the time had come for the Federal Government to take decisive action on the issue.e issue.