As part of efforts to force the Federal Government to address the myriad of challenges affecting business at the ports, freight forwarders and truckers have concluded plans to go on an indefinite strike from the second week of January 2020.
These port stakeholders under the auspices of the Association of Concerned Freight Forwarders and Transporters (ACFFT) have decried high haulage rates, absence of empty container holding bays by shipping companies, complicity of terminal operators, extortion by armed officers along port access routes, among other issues.
Speaking with MMS Plus after a strategic meeting last week, the Chairman of the group Chief Andy Best Omenogor maintained that despite the efforts of the federal government in repairing the roads, the gridlock persists.
Omenogor, however, lamented high rate of extortion saying that freight forwarders pay at least N100, 000 before they can be allowed to access the ports even as he urged the government to intervene.
“We struggle to find our way into the ports to drop empty containers and we pay not less than N100, 000 on each truck. The government has not done anything about it because everybody has kept quiet. We have endured this suffering for too long”
“Can you imagine that as at today, we pay N900, 000 to load a container from Apapa to Trade Fair Complex along Lagos-Badagry expressway? It is more expensive from Apapa to Agbara that is not Maiduguri, we are pay N1.2million. From Tin Can to Trade Fair we pay N1.6million per truck, how can we continue like this? The Police officers controlling traffic will say everything is working well but that is not true” he queried.
Omenogor stated that the group which includes freight forwarders from various associations and truckers under the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATIO), would have an inner caucus meeting during the Christmas period to pick a date to commence the strike action.
The group accused Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) of handling the issues of empty container holding bays, rising trucking charges, among others, with levity. They also indicted the Presidential taskforce of bribery and extortion.
Speaking on behalf of truck owners, the Chairman, AMATO, Chief Remi Ogungbemi said that truckers have been more efficient in managing traffic at the ports than the presidential taskforce.
Ogungbemi lamented the undue treatment meted on truckers by the presidential taskforce, noting that some high placed truckers and freight forwarders have supported the taskforce for personal gains and privileges.
However, he assured that he had started consulting over trucking groups to join the planned strike action in order to restore sanity at the ports.
“It is unfortunate that most of our colleagues aren’t in this meeting. They have exempted themselves despite the wide publicity and prevailing hardship. I suspect that some of them must be benefitting from this problem. Many truckers and freight forwarders are benefitting. I want to use this opportunity to state that the presidential taskforce has overstayed its welcome” he added.
Also speaking to MMS Plus at the meeting, the Secretary General of the group, Mr. Johnny Ubaka said; “We want to tell the public that we are not happy. What is going on in the industry is nothing to write home about. Everybody is bleeding. Our faces are dull; our businesses are crashing. Most of us collected loans from the bank and we cannot pay back because of numerous problems. We cannot continue to measure them” he said.
Noting that previous strike actions in the industry were hampered by disunity among freight agents and truckers, he revealed that a committee had been established to ensure that most stakeholders participate in the strike action.
“We are going to reach out to others to make sure that we are able to conquer that aspect of disharmony. I understand that there could be some saboteurs among us but we will work towards reducing that to the barest minimum”, he added.