Clearing agents and freight forwarders operating at the Tin-Can Island Ports Complex, Apapa have lamented rising daily costs they incur from demurrages arising from over 3, 000 imported vehicles trapped at the port as a result of the breakdown of the National Vehicle Registration (VReg) platform created by the Federal Ministry of Finance (FMOF) for imported vehicles.
The agents told The PassMaga that the platform had since last week stopped working, due to server downtime, thereby accruing storage and demurrage charges already hovering around N300 million.
When The PassMaga visited Tin Can port, the agents and freight forwarders were seen stranded and wailing over the server downtime and the losses made. When The PassMaga visited the www.vreg.gov.ng portal, it was not accessible for agents and freight forwarders to pay duty.
The Public Relations Officer, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Tin-Can Island chapter, Onome Monije, said agents were finding it difficult to access the Vreg’s platform in the last one week.
According to her, exiting vehicles from the terminals have been a nightmare even as she lamented that vehicles were attracting huge storage and demurrage charges from terminal operators and shipping companies.
She stated that the system has been giving agents and importers sleepless nights, as they have had to remain awake monitoring the network, which she said has been unstable even when available.
“The Vreg is for all consignment with chassis/serial number and it is mandatory for us to register with Vreg before we can proceed to Customs portal for duty assessment and payment because the Vreg has been integrated with that of Customs platform.
“As a result of the inability to access the Vreg platform, we stay awake in the middle of the night searching for a network and sometimes it comes up at 2am or 3am and whenever there is an amendment, it is always difficult to amend mistakes.
“Vreg is a great pain in the necks of clearing agents; the process is cumbersome as OTP code must be generated with a minimum payment of about N4,700 per unit vehicle. We are losing millions daily while shipping companies and terminal operators are gaining millions of naira daily,” she said.
“Also, no one is telling us what the issues with the Vreg network are and storage charges are increasing daily. Maybe shipping and terminal operators are paying commission to them through the huge demurrages and storage charges we are accruing,” she lamented.
The National Publicity Secretary of the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, (ARFFN), Taiwo Fatomilola, lamented that about 3, 000 imported vehicles are trapped at the port in Tin Can.
“Vehicles keep piling up every day, the vehicles dropped in the afternoon was 1, 000 in the Grimaldi area, so the quantity of vehicles dropped since last week is more than 3, 000.
“Importers and agents lose about N400 million per day due to this server downtime and calculating from last week till today, you should know the amount we have lost to the situation,” he lamented.
He said the server downtime is from the Ministry of Finance, alleging that the ministry is not doing anything to salvage the situation since last week.
Monije, however, pleaded with the Federal Ministry of Finance to have a help desk where complaints can be made and resolved.
“We are appealing to the federal ministry of finance or their consultant to open the link icons for importers to pay directly. It is also important that they have offices in Lagos and all the ports for effective working relationships with clearing agents and importers.
She also appealed that the Vreg platform should be reconfigured such that importers can make payments directly, instead of their clearing agents.
Meanwhile, the Public Relations Officer at the Tin-Can Island Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Uche Ejieseme, said: ‘We strongly believe that the VREG people are working assiduously to rectify the anomaly because the command has been on their neck. This is actually beyond us for obvious reasons but we won’t renege in partnership to ease business.”