Senate probes alleged exorbitant charges, extortion by shipping companies

The Senate has mandated its Committee on Marine Transport to engage stakeholders in the shipping industry and Nigeria Port Authority (NPA) with a view to proffer solution to the exorbitant increase and unjustifiable fees charged by shipping companies on Nigeria-bound cargoes.

The resolution was sequel to the adoption of a motion sponsored by Senator Ifeanyi Ubah at the plenary yesterday.

Moving the motion, Ubah noted that Nigeria is an import driven economy with excessive dependence on imports for consumption and capital goods.

He noted that in May 2017, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was Acting President at the time, signed an Executive Order directing 24-hour operations at the Apapa Port and outlawing unofficial charges at the Ports.

This order, Ubah explained, was aimed at improving the ease of doing business and reducing the high costs at the Ports.

According to him, despite the order, available statistics suggest that these unjustifiable charges and extortion by shipping agencies and law enforcement officers at the Ports have continued till date.

He said that vessels coming to Nigeria Port queue for 30 days longer before birthing due to various charges, adding that the cost of shipping goods into Nigerian Ports is amongst the highest in the world, with the figure for Apapa Port costing more than thrice that to Tema in Ghana, and five times higher than that of Durban in South Africa.

Ubah opined that the arbitrary introduction of excessive shipping charges will strangulate Nigerian shippers and importers; and has caused unjust hardship to Nigerians as importers transfer expenditure to both traders and consumers.

He expressed concern that if nothing is done to defend the nation from the economic sabotage, the development can cause a spiral inflation rate on the economy.

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