Plan to decongest Lagos port through rail suffers setback

The Federal Government’s plan to decongest the Lagos Port Complex (LPC) at Apapa by moving 90 units of 40-foot container cargoes daily through the rail services is experiencing hitches, The Nation investigation has shown.

About a month ago, Transportation Minister Saidu Alkali kicked off cargo movement on the Apapa Port standard gauge branch line from the APM Terminal to Moniya in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.

But The Nation investigations have shown that the need for importers to pay double-handling charges is hampering the decision of the Federal Government to decongest the Apapa port through cargo rail service for importers outside Lagos.

Cargo owners have said terminal operators made them pay for their containers’ transfer from the quay to the rail, as the rail does not extend to the quay.

A correspondent reports that the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), which operates the cargo train, does not have the amount importers are supposed to pay on its website and other places to access such information.

An invoice our correspondent obtained from one importer showed that the cumulative amount an importer has to pay to get a 20-foot container in Ibadan is N354,079.2. At the same time, the importer is also expected to pay N625,381.26 before his 40-foot container is delivered to him in the Oyo State capital.

Speaking with our correspondent on the development, a notable freight forwarder and former President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Eugene Nweke, described the amount as outrageous when compared with the amount importers pay truck drivers from the Apapa port to anywhere in Oyo State.

He criticized the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) for its inability to have an acceptable price with other stakeholders before the minister was invited to kick off the cargo movement from Lagos to Ibadan.

“No wonder the rail service is operating below capacity due to low participation of containers to meet the three trips per day schedule initially earmarked for the service by the minister,” he said.

A truck driver, Mr. Yahya Ibrahim, said they collected N300,000 and N350,000 to move a 20-foot container to Ibadan, while they also collected between N550,000 and N600,000 to move a 40-foot container to the same city.

This amount, Ibrahim said, includes about N100,000 to “bribe” security agents and “Area Boys” on the road while conveying the containers to their destination.

“If you, as a businessman, calculate the amount you have to pay for rail and the amount the truck driver will collect, you will prefer to use the truck than the rail,” said an importer, Gbolahan Badejoko.

An importer, Mr. Kolade Adeyemo, told our correspondent that the operators of APM Terminals at Apapa had what they called Rail Handling Charges (RHC), which the shippers must pay to the terminal before they could enjoy the rail services.

But the Lagos District Manager of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Augustine Arisa, told reporters that “the issue of double-handling charges is always like that anywhere in the world where the track does not get to the port quay”.

They claimed that after paying some charges at the Lagos Port, they were being levied on the same containers on arrival at Moniya in Ibadan, Oyo State.

Source: The Nation

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