By Kenneth Jukpor
Despite speculation that President Mohammadu Buhari’s directive to have Lagos ports remain operational marred the directive to suspend charges of demurrage by terminal operators, the Federal Government has reiterated the suspension of the charges.
Terminal operators at Lagos ports refused to comply with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) directive to suspend demurrage charges while Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) attempted to explain circumstances that made the operators to neglect the order.
However, the Permanent Secretary, Political and Economic Affairs, Office of the Secretary to the Government, Mr. Andrew David Adejo, yesterday, urged terminal operators to comply to the measures put in place by NPA.
Adejo made this position known in a letter addressed to the National President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA).
“As you may already be aware, NPA has suspended demurrage for an initial period of twenty-one days effective March 23, 2020 and have also enjoined all government agencies to be at their respective posts through their press statements of March 28 and April 3, 2020, respectively.”
“These have also been followed by the necessary administrative communications to all the stakeholders concerned and you may wish to seek further clarification on what constitute essential goods as contained in Mr. President’s March 29th National Broadcast”
Although the Permanent Secretary observed that the government may be constrained in providing incentive for licensed Customs Agents, he admonished port stakeholders to adhere to the measures stipulated by NPA and other port officials.
He stressed that the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 appreciates the continued support and cooperation in the collective effort to eliminate the pandemic.
Speaking with MMS Plus on this development earlier, the Executive Secretary of NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello observed that President Mohammadu Buhari’s directive that the Lagos ports remain operational marred the directive to suspend charges.
Bello stated that the Council’s ability to secure approval for the banks to commence services and freight forwarders exemption from the lockdown which resulted to continuous port operations, overruled the call to suspend charges on demurrage.
According to him, since the approval for all operators at the ports have been secured, there was no hindrance to cargo evacuation, consequently, there wasn’t need to suspend charges.
This position, however, doesn’t explain why the terminal operators were unwilling to suspend their charges prior to President Buhari’s address on the pandemic as they continued collecting the charges five days before the President’s address.
MMS Plus newspaper obtained proof of payment on demurrage charges up till Monday, March 30th, 2020 as AP Moller Terminal (APMT), Tin Can Island Container Terminal (TICT), others neglected NPA orders.
NPA made the call as an initiative to relieve the burden on port users following the raging Covid-19 pandemic which has placed immense pressure on business activities across the globe.