Tinapa, Nigerian Customs at War Over Delayed Cargo

In Breaking News, Business & Economy, National News, Reports

by crossriverwatch admin

Calabar Free Trade Zone
Calabar Free Trade Zone

Recently, the Managing Director of Tinapa Business Resorts Limited, Architect Bassey Ndem while briefing journalists in Calabar painted a gleeful picture about business activity in the place popularly referred to as Africa’s Premier Business and Tourism Resort.

However, barely a week after Tinapa played host to over 9,000 lawyers who descended on the city of Calabar from all parts of the country for the 53rd annual conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) which held from August 26 to August 30, 2013, Tinapa has become a ghost of the bustling life during the NBA Conference.

This unpleasant state of affairs, according to a source which operates an arcade in the complex, “is associated with the intricacies of doing business in Nigeria which often gives investors and businessmen sleepless nights and mind ache”.

The ongoing state of affairs in the place is attributable to the tango between the management of Tinapa and a top official of the Nigerian Customs at Onne through which consignments into Tinapa are imported.

“The current logjam is giving some of us uncomfortable moments and sleepless nights as we can no longer bring our cargoes into Tinapa which operates under the law covering the Free Trade Zones in the country”. Our source said.

Some of the tenants in the zone who have been frequenting the Onne Port to take delivery of their goods for onward transportation to Tinapa and the Calabar Free Trade Zone ( CFTZ) say they are frustrated in most cases as they have been subjected to unnecessary delay in the clearing of their containers , and in the last three weeks the situation has become worse as their cargoes are no longer cleared for onward passage to Calabar, their final destination.

Public Relations Officer of Tinapa, Paul Eko told journalists that the Management of Tinapa has reported the unnecessary delay in the clearance of containers meant for Tinapa at the Onne Port to the Customs Office in Calabar but officials there are surprised and claimed ignorance of what was going on at Onne Ports.

Eko said based on the ignorance claimed by the Customs in Calabar, the management of Tinapa took the matter to Nigerian Customs office at Onne Port, but they were shocked at the antics of one of the Customs Officials in-charge of cargoes coming to Tinapa from Onne.

“Our findings at Onne show that the delay is linked to a directive issued by the Zonal Coordinator, Zone C of the Customs, Mr. F .O. Effiong that containers meant for Tinapa and CFTZ should be delayed because the revenue accruing to The Nigeria Customs does not tally with the traffic of goods in and out of Tinapa.

“It is indeed shocking that such a unilateral decision, with far reaching economic consequences to Tinapa and CFTZ and other importers into Calabar should be carried out with such impunity over a flimsy excuse”. He said.

According to the Information Officer, “Indeed , the law establishing Tinapa Business Resort recognizes the fact that Tinapa is the “ transit hub “ for goods within the west African sub-region, and there is an existing , albeit gazetted “ transit law” governing the movement of goods into Tinapa for trading and also the movement of goods meant for other countries within the sub-region”. Eko said.

Eko said all entreaties to Mr. Offiong to work within the guidelines of the law in handling cargoes in-transit from Onne to the Tinapa have met brick walls, stressing that the Customs officer says he can keep the containers for upward of 6 months and nothing would happen.

“Moreover the law establishing Tinapa gives customs the sole responsibility of escorting consignments transiting from Onne Port into the zone. Customs have a post and an office within CFTZ equipped and occupied by Customs Officers posted to the zone.

“They carry out 24 hours daily inspection of containers and goods entering and exiting the zone and collect relevant duties as assessed solely by them for the Federal Government”.

The image maker of Tinapa said the Customs in the past have never complained to the management of Tinapa about any form of interference in the conduct of their functions in and outside Tinapa.

“The Tinapa management is at a loss as to why containers and goods transiting from Onne to Tinapa are abandoned unattended to due to the impunity and insensitivity of one man who is parading an order whose source cannot be ascertained”.
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Eko said the loss suffered by investors and tenants in Tinapa in the last three weeks cannot be quantified, saying actions should be taken immediately by the Nigerian Customs to address the issue.

“The collateral damage to the financial base of the importers is such that if they continue to pay demurrage for every day their containers and good are delayed in Onne, the cost will become unbearable”
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He bemoaned the state of Calabar Port which does not take big vessels and appealed for immediate dredging of the channel to the port to allow larger vessels to berth, a development he said would make it easier for investors to import directly to Calabar.

At the Calabar Port, an Official who craved anonymity said, “We are aware of the complaints from Tinapa management and most of our investors about the delay of their containers and good in Onne. Our headquarters in Abuja is looking into that”.

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