By Kenneth Jukpor
In a bid to prevent colossal fiscal losses by port users, the leadership of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has appealed to the federal government to activate ‘Force Majeure’ on the nation’s imports and exports.
This is coming on the heels of the lockdown period initiated by the government to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
The association made this call in an open letter to Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and signed by ANLCA National President, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike, made available to MMS Plus newspaper.
“We seek for all demurrage, rents, penalties etc emanating from inability to clear cargoes as at when due from the ports at this period to be waived effective from the first week of March, 2020 when the first case of the deadly virus was detected in Nigeria through an Italian citizen.”
“We, hereby, call for the enforcement of ‘Force Majeure’ and total lockdown of our seaports as already done in the airports and border stations to curb the spread of the deadly Coronavirus and to protect the Nigerian workforce operating in our ports”
“Your Excellency sir, we are appealing that you use your good office to ensure that this is implemented immediately. Sir, please note that we are dealing with concessionaires, shipping companies and others who are mainly foreigners, hence the need for government intervention and enforcement has become necessary,” he said.
Noting that it is almost impossible to process customs documentation and take delivery of cargoes at ports during this period, Nwabunike said the situation demands activation of ‘Force Majeure’ in line with international best practices.
The ANLCA National President stressed that the open letter became necessary in order to prevent conflict at the nation’s ports that could arise from frivolous charges until pandemic is sufficiently addresed in the country.
He, however, assured the government that freight agents under the aegis of ANLCA would continue to support the government and all its agencies at the ports to ensure attainment of national objectives, especially in revenue collection.
Describing the association as Africa’s largest and finest professional maritime/freight forwarding group, he said, ‘We are happy with measures already taken by the Federal Government of Nigeria to fight the Coronavirus (Covid-19) scourge in a bid to stop the spread of the virus in Nigeria.
“We at ANLCA are in full support and we have since last week shutdown our National Secretariat and advised our numerous members across the Country to practice the Self-Distancing and stay at home order as issued by the Federal Government in its efforts to help contain the spread of the virus which may be occasioned by moving from offices to ports and to various homes,” Nwabunike added.