By Kenneth Jukpor
The Nigerian Association of Chamber of Commerce Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and other port users have called for the implementation of the 30 percent reduction in truck haulage cost.
The organized private sector groups made this appeal during a meeting organized by Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) in Lagos last week.
While commending the Council for the move to get truckers reduce their charges under the COVID-19 pandemic, the port users observed that the effects were yet to be felt by haulage service users.
Speaking on behalf of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Mrs. Margaret Orakwusi raised this issue, even as she commended Shippers’ Council for bringing port agencies to work together under the Maritime Task Team for COVID-19.
“It is a good development to have this 30 percent reduction in truck haulage cost, but is there a place someone can report when charged higher. In reality the service still costs more than the stipulated prices. Since, there is reduction we want to be able to take advantage of this. Is there a body to enforce this 30 percent reduction and penalize defaulting truckers”, Orakwusi queried.
She also stated that the private sector has been perturbed by the overlapping functions, unhealthy rivalry and lack of unity which affects private sector businesses.
“We hope that this unity continues because when you come together you recognize your overlapping functions. Some of us who require services of different agencies get our goods delayed because this agency will inspect and that agency will also have to re-inspect in a way that causes unnecessary delays,” she said.
According to her, the move by NSC to unite other agencies showed the traits of a good port economic regulator.
“You have brought life to the port system despite the lockdown to curb the pandemic. You have been able to get the banks open to offer their banking services to the importers and exporters and whoever has any business can transact at the port,” NACCIMA representative said.
She noted that government agencies should focus on encouraging businesses to grow as such critical economic stage rather than augmenting the drive for revenue.
“You see the government agencies in other countries working to increase cargoes via exports and imports but the reverse is the issue in Nigeria. There is this massive competition to increase levies and enforce payment of levies. You are squeezing life out of the businesses and these enterprises actually employ people. So, we should also endeavour to drive the growth of businesses,” she opined.
She pointed out that most of the exports from the country aside oil, are agricultural goods that are perishable, hence, the need to drive efficiency to ensure that people don’t lose their cargoes because of delays.
“In most cases you sign contracts with people abroad and the situation is not like Nigeria where you can delay and beg. Your products will be rejected if they don’t pass the analysis there, they will be rejected. So, we also must drive efficiency at the ports.”
On automation, she agreed with the NSC boss on the need to jettison manual activities, stating that, “International trading is highly competitive. So, if we really want to export we must be serious and make sure we compete with other countries in terms of innovation and automation”.
Speaking on behalf of MAN, Mr. John Aluya said manufacturers were excited about demurrage waivers and storage charges, however, he opined that the free period should not be closed in May.
“I want to appreciate NSC for providing the direction as such turbulent times occasioned by the pandemic. I hope you wouldn’t relent because more challenges are coming,” he said.
On NSC’s move to replace container deposits with insurance, the MAN representative encouraged Shippers’ Council to expedite the process as he lamented that manufacturers and other port users have deposited trillions in the account of shipping lines without any hope of refund.
“There was a time NSC put a deadline of four days for the refund of container deposit but that hasn’t been working,” Aluya lamented.
Earlier, the Executive Secretary of NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello briefed the stakeholders on the activities of the Council during the lockdown as well as other interventions to enhance port operations in recent times.