After investing N3.5 trillion to set up bonded terminals in the country, the Association of Bonded Terminal Operators of Nigeria (ABTOA) has said that over 40 bonded terminals in the country are operating below 15 per cent of their capacities since the ports were concessioned in 2006. General-Secretary of the association, Haruna Omolajomo, explained that over 90 per cent of bonded terminals in the country were licensed by the Nigeria Customs Service under the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) Cap 84 LFN 2004 as bonded warehouse/terminal operators and were also globally recognised by World Trade Organisation (WTO), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), World Customs Organisation (WCO) as they form an integral part of ports operations.
The secretary general noted that there were over 40 bonded terminals in Lagos, whose oprates erations include improvement and provision of off-dock facilities for the purpose of eliminating congestion at the ports and serving as holding bays for containers under a secured and bonded environment that ensures enhanced revenue for all stakeholders.
However, he noted that most of the port concessionaires were foreigners, who came to the country to make huge profits, thereby ignoring local content. Omolajomo stressed that the concessionaires moved in and chose to keep containers in the ports, as they preferred to deal directly with the importers and agents, which had left operators of bonded terminals to suffer. The secretary general added that this had been happening since government concessioned the ports without any agency of government saddled with a regulatory or supervisory role. According to him, the main port was supposed to be a transit zone as stipulated by the International Maritime Organisation (lMO) that states that cargo must leave the port within 24 to 48 hours to off-dock or to bonded terminals before final clearing by the owners globally.
Omolajomo explained that bonded terminals could handle all, but not limited to exports, imports, holding bays, warehousing, stemming cargoes or containers landed on a vessel either by barge, road or train, among others. He said despite all these important operations of bonded terminals with international and local backings, the ports were used as big storage facilities with containers stacked as high as six against international best practices, thereby affecting bonded terminal capacity utilisation. Omolajomo said: “Could you imagine a bonded terminal that can accommodate 600 containers at full capacity, but is currently accommodating 67 containers? This is not normal considering the huge amount of money invested in the terminal facilities. “To these concessionaires, they are not duty-bound to patronise the bonded terminals.”
He added that bonded terminals had positively impacted space availability and utilisation, as they complimented the efforts of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to decongest the ports. Omolajomo stressed that during the National Economic Empowerment and Developmental Strategies (NEEDS) where private individuals were encouraged by the Federal Government to invest and participate economically in maritime businesses, bonded terminal operators borrowed not less than N3.5 trillion to finance acquisition and improvement of facilities.