· Disregard High Court, NCAA, Shippers’ Council
· ANLCA bribed with Hilux, Hiace bus, NAGAFF gets millions – Allegation
By Kenneth Jukpor
Freight forwarders operating at the Lagos airports have been thrown into untold economic hardship as an emerging private monopoly in ground handling processes at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) has led to 40 percent increase in charges.
While this development has been labeled a conspiracy, MMS Plus investigations reveal that the ground handling companies may have breached the due process required for such increment to be made, even as they flouted court order.
Privatization ought to lead to competition with the customers enjoying variety; but NAHCO and SAHCO have initiated a monopoly to increase their charges by 70% before coming down to 40% via a procedure not laid down by regulatory authorities or consultation with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) or the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC).
The collection of the new charges began on December 1st, 2019 despite the Federal High Court in Lagos insisting in October last year, that the status quo remained pending the hearing of the case with Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1576/19.
In its statement put forward to the court as sited by our correspondent, the Head, Cargo Services, SAHCO, Mr. Olajide Kafidipe claimed that the agency reached an agreement with dominant freight forwarding groups, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) after due notice.
The SAHCO respondent claimed that only the African Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics in Nigeria (APFFLON) were against the move to increase the charges.
Recall that the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) Mr. Hassan Bello lamented that the spontaneous increase by NAHCO and SAHCO was done without proper consultation with the Council.
Bello who was giving a review of activities in 2019 in an interview with MMS Plus newspaper, said that; “Shippers’ Council had challenges at the airports and we are currently battling it. I just finished a crucial meeting with my colleagues who are freight forwarders over the increment of ground handling charges. We are trying to see what we can do about that”
Meanwhile, in an exclusive chat with our correspondent the spokesman for NCAA, Mr. Sam Adurogboye described the sector as a deregulated one where the operators are at liberty to fix the tariff.
“It is a deregulated sector. The ground handling companies are at liberty to increase their rates just like the air fares. NCAA doesn’t fix the air fares. However, it is only during situations when a company is undercharging that we can step in. For example, if all airlines charge around N40,000 for a one hour flight and one company decides to charge N20,000. It is the operator that sets N20,000 that our policy directs us to examine. NAHCO and SAHCO had an issue in the industry which we tried to resolve with them, not that we fix prices,” Adurogboye said.
Noting that NCAA had a Consumer Protection Directorate, Adurogboye stressed that the function of that department was to respond to consumer s’ complaints.
“It is only when people file a complaint with the NCAA Consumer Protection Directorate that we look at it and call the service provider to address the complaints. If there is no complaint, then there is no basis to raise any complaints. This increment just happened. It is too early to imagine that there would be complaints or protest,” he asserted.
However, he noted that the recent increment in Value Added Tax (VAT) would have a ripple effect on the charges for ground handling services, saying that; “Prices wouldn’t be static because the fares ought to respond to the recent action which we have seen with the increment in VAT”
Meanwhile, MMS Plus had sited letters addressed to the Acting Managing Director of NCAA dated November 28th, 2019 and acknowledged on November 29th , 2019, titled; RE: Institution Of Court Action Against The Arbitrary Increase By 70% On Tariff By SAHCO And NAHCO In APFFLON vs SAHCO and NAHCO SUIT NO: FHC/CS/1576/19.
In the letter with ATTN: Captain Abdullahi M. Sidi, APFFLON had called the attention of NCAA to the hike and lamented the economic pangs it would cost freight agents in the sector.
Speaking with MMS Plus newspaper, the President of APFFLON, Mr. Frank Ogunjemite lamented that the group had sent letters and sought meeting with NCAA, Shippers’ Council and the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), but all efforts were fruitless.
Meanwhile, the Managing Director of SAHCO, Mr. Basil Agboarunmi told MMS Plus that the company met all stipulated requirements before increasing its charges.
“We met the criteria for that increase. You just said that this issue is in court and as such you know that I shouldn’t be commenting on it. However, I can comment on the reasons that led to the increment. We are business people and we provide services for people. We know what it costs us to provide these services. We understand the difficulties encountered to stay afloat in this business. You can’t compare the increment to the nation’s economic state.”
“Those we do business with have all increased their charges and we have just increased ours by a fraction. I can assure that we are law abiding and we followed the due process for increment. If there are issues in this regard, we know where to make our responses” he said.
Efforts to reach Public Relations Officer at NAHCO were futile as at press time.
In another development, some veteran freight forwarders have accused the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) chapters at the Lagos Airport of compromise.
While the ANLCA airport chapter allegedly received two brand new vehicles; a 2019 Toyota Hilux van and a brand new Hiace bus, courtesy of SAHCO, NAGAFF airport chapter was also alleged to have received monetary settlement in millions.
However, the National President of ANLCA, Hon. Tony Iju Nwabunike stated that such allegation was subject to verification from the airport chapter executives.
He disclosed that he was aware of the increment which was to better equip the ground handling companies in their services delivered to freight agents.
“The reason for the increment is to make the business environment more satisfying for the people who transact at the airports. They came down from the 70% to 40% so that the operators could bear it,” Nwabunike said.
When contacted, the Chairman of the ANLCA, Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) chapter, Mr. Fatai Shobowale refused to comment on the alleged bribery over the phone, insisting that our correspondent gets to his office to extract any reaction.
However, MMS Plus correspondent was yet to secure an onsite meeting with the ANLCA MMIA Chairman until press time.
On the alleged vehicles given to ANLCA, the SAHCO Managing Director, Agboarunmi insisted that he wouldn’t reveal the circumstances surrounding the bus and van until he is confronted personally by the individual making the allegation.
“I cannot confirm if SAHCO gave out a bus and a car until I know who is making that allegation. If the person making this allegation can come forward, I would speak on it”, he said.
When contacted, the Chairman of NAGAFF, MMIA Chapter, Comrade Bernard Udo stated that the NAGAFF Committee Chairman on the Increment was best placed to speak on the issue.
However, he refused to reveal contact details of the Committee Chairman despite earlier assurance and several promptings.