Maritime agencies mandate dollar payments

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Despite the Central Bank of Nigeria’s warning against the dollarisation of the country’s economy, some government agencies in the maritime industry collect dollars from shipowners for transactions done in Nigeria, The PUNCH findings have revealed.

The PUNCH gathered that despite pleas by shipowners for some of these charges to be paid in naira, jetty berths and port dues are still paid in dollars to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and Nigerian Ports Authority.

The shipowners in separate exclusive chats with The PUNCH in Lagos claimed that shipping is a dollar-dominated business and as such, the dollar is the preferred currency.

The President of the Shipowners Association of Nigeria, Mkgeorge Onyung, said the group had been advocating for payments to be made in the local currency.

He, however, said that until now, they still made some payments in dollars, adding that shipping was a dollar-dominated business.

“Let us put it this way, in the past, all payments were supposed to be in dollars. I knew we advocated that the payments should be in naira considering the exchange rate. But till now the invoices are issued in dollars because shipping is a dollar-denominated business,” he explained.

Also speaking, a shipowner, Mr Tunji Brown, admitted they still make some payments to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency in dollars.

“For some duties, yes we have to pay in dollars. For security duty by Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, you pay in dollars. For NPA and other charges, some of these payments in dollars still happen. Most times, vessels come from offshore. When you say offshore not in Nigeria, it is no longer a Nigerian transaction because you are just coming to Nigeria for the first time. That is why they charge in dollars. But if the product is already discharged in Nigeria waters, the first vessel pays in dollars,” he enunciated.

He further explained that the mother vessel bringing the product to Nigeria is the only one that will pay in dollars, others will pay in naira.

He added, “For example, the mother vessel that comes into the country with the product will pay in dollars. But any other smaller vessel that ships within the Nigerian waters will pay in naira. But if you coming to offshore Lome, you are going to pay in dollars because that is regarded as an offshore transaction. The transaction is regarded as a foreign transaction even if it is a Nigerian vessel loaded in Lome. Since it did not load from Nigerian water, the vessel still pays in dollars.”

Adedoyin stressed the need for the government to revive Nigerian refineries so that this money will be retained in the country.

An attempt to get the reaction of NIMASA was not fruitful as the Assistant Director, Public Relations,  Osagie Edward, did not pick up his calls or reply to the messages sent to him at the time of filling this report.

Meanwhile, a source in NPA declined comment on the issue, saying he had no approval  to speak on the issue.

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