by Fehintoluwa Ajayi
The Business Facilitation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2023 has prohibited touting in Nigerian ports. Touting includes carrying out any unlawful activity for personal gain.
Nigerian ports, especially Lagos ports have battled with the menace of touting and extortion over the years. There are a lot of illegal checkpoints set up by these miscreants aimed at extorting drivers. A large chunk of the money goes to their pockets, while officially remitting little to none to the government
At each extortion checkpoint, several labor and trade union lads are pressuring the haulage operators to pay them money and those who refuse are often denied entry. Truck drivers are forced to pay in order to protect their cargo from damage or tampering. As a result, importers struggle to pay due to the additional costs associated with extortion, which is often the cause of conflict between agents and importers.
Consequently, many containers are left unclaimed in the terminals, becoming overtime cargoes that may be auctioned. Overtime cargoes are cargoes which the importer fails to clear and take delivery of them after 28 days in the port. The Customs Excise and Management Act (CEMA) then allows Customs to auction such cargoes after 90 days of arrival at the port.
According to the Act, the penalty for touting in Nigerian ports is a fine of atleast 1 million naira or atleast 6 months imprisonment or both. The Act has further mandated that staff on duty must be on their uniforms and wear their official ID cards. The staff not on duty are to stay away from the ports unless they have the express permission of the head of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA). A non official staff is also not allowed in the secured areas of any of Nigerian port.
Where an official collects bribe from passengers or other port users, he shall be removed from his duty post, subject to disciplinary measures and liable to criminal proceedings according to the law.
Currently the Nigerian Shippers Council, NPA, and the Lagos State Task Force Team are collaborating together to remove touts from port corridors.
I believe that the effective implementation of the provisions of the Act prohibiting touting will streamline operations in Nigerian ports, reduce delays, and ultimately promote economic growth by increasing efficiency and reducing costs for businesses.
Fehintoluwa Ajayi is a lawyer called to the Nigerian Bar in 2022. She graduated from the University of Lagos and has an avid interest in Maritime Law. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org