Last week, crisis erupted at the cargo handling shed of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) as ground handling companies battled over consignments which arrived via Ethopian airlines.
The Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc seized cargoes of Ethiopian Airlines Cargo and Mail Services, insisting that it has a legal contract empowering it to handle the Airline’s cargoes for three years signed in October 2018.
Previously, Ethiopian Airline cargoes were handled by Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) who also have a running contract for the business signed last year.
Freight agents and their importers have been the biggest losers in this quagmire as NAHCO seized the consignments while SAHCO withheld the documents required for clearing the cargoes.
The reason people send their goods by air is because of the speedy delivery but this advantage was lost as importers couldn’t meet the timelines of their suppliers and others lost their contracts, besides the demurrage incurred.
Freight forwarders caught up in this crisis are also primed to lose their clients because they would be perceived as being inefficient for the shortcomings and delays actually beyond them.
Why should such multinational company flout the rule of law by going into contracts with two companies for the same service? Both agencies have legal departments, so who signed these contracts? Could this total shutdown the business activities at the airport for items conveyed by the airline have been resolved amicably.
A statement by Mr. Tayo Ogunbanjo, the Head, Legal Services, NAHCO said that the development was based on the provisions of the Standard Ground Agreement Service (SGHA) signed on October 1, 2018 between the two companies.
Ogunbanjo stated that the current SGHA agreement between NAHCO and Ethiopian Airlines is for three years.
He said, “Ethiopian Airlines should ideally not have two contracts running on the same cargo handling business. Since we have an existing and bidding contract, we are simply exercising our right as stipulated in that contract.”
When contacted, the Managing Director of SAHCO, Mr. Basil Agboarunmi told our correspondent that Ethiopian Airline should be in a better position to respond on the conflict.
“As very law abiding corporate organization, SAHCO respects regulations and contracts signed with our clients and all stakeholders,” he posited.
This is an unpleasant situation that requires timely intervention of regulatory agencies.
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) should play lead roles in resolving this conflict.