Mohammed Koko, acting managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), made the demand on Tuesday at an interactive session organised by the house of representatives committee on customs.
A cargo is classified as overtime if the importer does not clear it after 90 days — all overtime cargo are subject to seizure by customs.
Koko said there are over 5,000 overtime containers across the ports in the country, adding that some of them are over a year.
He said the containers occupy space and prevent other cargos from being imported into the country.
“The issue of free storage period is actually to forestall the use of the ports as a storage facility by importers,” he said.
“Let me also mention here, currently there are over 5,000 containers across the ports that are overtime cargo. A cargo is overtime after 90 days. Some of these containers are more than a year old. And when you leave these containers, they are also occupying space that would have been used for containers imported into the country.
“The containers are supposed to be evacuated to the Ikorodu terminal. Currently Ikorodu terminal has over 2,500 containers.
“The place is filled up, Nigeria customs has not auctioned containers to the best of our knowledge in recent times. So there is even no space for more containers.
“We have not seen any containers moved out of the Ikorodu terminal for auction in recent times. So there is a need for that to be done to free the ports of overtime cargo. Some of them have been there for many years. That is a major problem. If that can be handled, the terminals would be freer to receive more import and there will be more space for that.
“Ikorodu terminal when emptied, that means if customs is able to auctions these containers, it will now have more space for us to move overtime cargos to these locations.
“Not too long ago we had written to CG customs and we appreciate he took action. There were containers that over time we have seized in terminals that were containing explosives.
“The kind of explosives that created issues in the route. We heard that the remaining containers have just been taken away about a week ago. So we have many containers, they are jerricans of petrol kept by Nigerian customs at Ikorodu, we have written on that, so there is need for Nigerian customs to take action at Ikorodu so that all these items are taken out.”
Meanwhile, the committee has given customs two weeks to reduce the “18 stages” required to clear cargoes at the ports.
Leke Abejide, chairman of the committee, said the process should be limited to four stages to facilitate the movement of cargos.
Earlier, Isamil Yussuf, managing director, Inland Container Nigeria Ltd, had told the committee that they are too “many tables” in which documents are processed before cargos leave the ports.
Talatu Isah, deputy comptroller, tariff and trade of customs said the matter will be investigated, adding that the procedure should not be that cumbersome.