Customs generates N13.11 billion from Onne Port

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By Sulaimon Salau

• Terminal operators bemoan delay in construction of port access roads

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Area II Command, Onne Port, Rivers State, said it generated over N13.11 billion for the month of September.

Meanwhile, the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), has bemoaned the slow pace of work on the Marine Beach Bridge, Apapa, and the TinCan Island Port access road.

The Command’s Public Relations Officer, Mrs Ifeoma Ojekwu, in a statement quoted the Comptroller, Auwal Mohammed, as saying the figure is the highest in the 37 years of Customs’ operations in the Port.

Mohammed attributed the sterling performance to the robust mechanisms put in place by the Command to reduce smuggling and duty evasion in the Port.

He said: “The over N13.11 billion generated in the month of September is the first month scorecard of the Customs Area II Command, Onne Port, since I took office on September 1.

“The revenue generation is the highest monthly revenue generated in the Command since its creation over 37 years ago.

“In addition, the feat is a combination of efforts by my very diligent officers and men, who are unrelenting in the discharge of their duties,” he said.

Mohammed said the Command recorded the feat by processing a total of 18,085 metric tonnes of export activities within the period.  “The Area Command handled export activities Free On-Board (FOB) with a value of $6.441 million (N2.944 billion), while N10.595 million was collected under the Nigerian Export Supervision Scheme (NESS).

“Also, in anti-smuggling activities, the Command seized 13 containers containing 400 bundles of used tyres, 100 pieces of motor radiators and 264 logs of raw hard wood.

“Others are 100 pieces of car fans and four units of bed trailer trucks with a total Duty Paid Value of N99.917 million in September.”The comptroller assured that efforts will be redoubled to surpass the feat, asthe command is focused on purging all forms of leakages in the port to further generate more revenue for the Federal Government.

“Where shortfalls are detected, I will ensure uncompromising recovery through ‘Demand Notice’ to prevent revenue losses.

“We will continue to make this Command a no go area for perpetrators of smuggling, concealment, duty evasion and other forms of illegality. We will achieve this by seizing all illegally imported and prohibited goods; arrest the perpetrators and prosecute them in accordance with the Customs and Excise Management Act.”

However,  Chairman, STOAN, Princess Vicky Haastrup, in an interview with journalists in Lagos, said the poor access road to the ports is posing grave danger to businesses and Nigeria’s economy as a whole.

Haastrup said: “The construction of the bridge is going at a very slow pace and that bleeds my heart, because this bridge is very strategic to port operations.

“There is construction ongoing on TinCan Island road, so the only access road to both Apapa and Tinca Island ports now is this bridge, and in the last couple of weeks I did not see a single person working on the bridge.

“The question is: why is the contractor not speeding up the work? This is a disgrace for Nigeria. It is such a nightmare for people to come to Apapa to do business. Maritime is a strategic sector to the economy of Nigeria. The port is the gateway to Nigeria’s economy, and what we have today it such a nightmare. It is practically impossible to access the ports.

“Lay down time of ships is increasing by the day, because trucks and people could not access the ports.

“I will use this opportunity to appeal to the Federal Government and the Federal Ministry of Works to please ensure that the contractor speeds up the pace of work on the bridge and road. They should be mobilized to speed up the work,” she stated.

On the issue of barge operators, she said the government is not stopping any barge operation, as they only barred those who are operating within the marina line, which is understandable because they are creating total mess there.

“The barge operation is very important at the moment, because the roads are in a deplorable condition, so we cannot afford to stop total barge operations,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has pleaded with motorists to be patient with the contractor handling the repair of the bridge, saying that the repair work has an 18-month timeline that is expected to end in April next year.

Federal Controller of Works, Kayode Popoola, was reported to have said: “What looks like delay is not delay in the real sense of it, considering the nature of work the contractor is doing there. It is purely technical and takes a lot of planning and careful execution. What we are fixing there are broken joints involving replacing old, worn out bearings and connecting joints,”