· Northern cabals eye NIMASA DG slot
· Freight Agents accuse FG of endorsing 10 days demurrage extortion
By Kenneth Jukpor
As the four years of Dr. Dakuku Peterside as the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) runs out in a fortnight, there is an ambience of vagueness surrounding the maritime agency.
The NIMASA boss has admirers and supporters amongst the leadership at the Executive Director and Director cadres almost as much as those who plot to assume his position or pave the way for their favourite candidates in few weeks.
While some influential Northern cabals close to the Presidency want Dakuku axed in favour of a Northerner, President Mohammadu Buhari is yet to assent to this call, knowing that the NIMASA boss is special to the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi.
Buhari is allegedly unwilling to mar his relationship with Amaechi who would prefer Dakuku reinstated, but the pressure from the Northern cabal is anchored on the premise that Amaechi had played his role in Buhari’s emergence as President but his friendliness or otherwise was no longer of importance to the President.
According to these political bigwigs, Amaechi has also lost his political clout in the South South, especially his Rivers State which remains massively dominated by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The top Northern figures have also encouraged the President to appoint a Northerner at the helm of affairs in NIMASA, whilst sacrificing the leadership of another agency in the sector as a compensation for the South later next year.
With few days to go, the NIMASA boss is yet to secure any assurance either verbally or formally that he would retain the top job at the agency creating an avenue for lobbying in the presidency and high level permutations at the agency.
Dr. Dakuku Adolphus Peterside assumed duty as the Director General/CEO of NIMASA on Tuesday March 15, 2016. However, his appointment took effect from 10th March, 2016.
In terms of performance, the NIMASA boss has been lampooned for leaving it too late to churn out his achievements. However, the biggest challenge remains the level of piracy which has increased in the last one year despite the arrival of the Anti-Piracy law and the ongoing Deep Blue project.
In the last two months, the Dakuku-led NIMASA has been at the forefront of numerous activities ranging from Ship Registry, Maritime Action Plan for Litters and Plastics, National Security summits for Deep Blue project, disbursement of Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF), Admiralty Law Seminar for Judges, Receiving Special Mission vessels, among others.
While these are laudable conferences and programmes, industry observers have described Dakuku’s activities as a last minute struggle to show the agency’s achievements and ensure he doesn’t miss out on the credits for initiatives started by him if he doesn’t get the second tenure.
In another development, Nigerian freight forwarders have accused the Federal Government and its port regulatory agencies of deliberately shortchanging the nation by allowing terminal operators and shipping companies enjoy a minimum of ten days demurrage charges on import consignments at the nation’s ports.
This is coming as the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello asserted that cargo dwell time takes more than 18 days at Nigerian ports, leaving operators wondering why the Council has been unable to mandate shipping companies and terminal operators to give at least ten days free demurrage period and free rent period, respectively.
While addressing a delegation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a tour of Nigerian ports as part of compilation and publication of the IMF Economic Outlook Review for 2020, Bello said; “What we are doing now is about 18-20 days cargo dwell time. We want to reduce it to 7 days.”
While NSC plans to get the cargo dwell time down to seven days, the President, African Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics in Nigeria (APFFLON), Mr. Frank Ogunjemite has accused the government of intentionally impoverishing its citizens by allowing terminal operators and shipping companies enjoy at least ten days demurrage on imports.
Ogunjemite who was speaking with MMS Plus during an exclusive chat said; “The average cost for the demurrage per day for shipping companies or terminals is around N15,000 and the Shippers’ Council boss says the clearance time is about 18days while the free rent period is 5days. This means that an average importer or freight forwarder must pay demurrage for about thirteen days which N195,000 per container. When you multiply this by the number of containers received at Nigerian ports you would find that the nation is losing over N500million annually”
The AFPPLON President admonished Shippers’ Council to engage the shipping companies and terminal operators to extend their free rent and free demurrage period to a minimum of ten days to allow freight forwarders clear their cargoes with minimal fiscal burden arising from demurrage.
“Sometimes when I think about the issue, I wonder why Shippers’ Council isn’t doing enough! Are they benefitting from this process? There is also the aspect of the Council not having the legal instrument to take on this battle but when you consider the effects of this extortion on the nation, it is really disturbing. This leads to inflation because the cost of demurrage would be transferred to the final prices of imported goods and services,” he said.
He also pointed out that terminal operators charge rentals for weekends and public holidays when the freight forwarders do not have the opportunity to clear their cargoes on those days.
“At the airports, the ground handling companies don’t charge on holidays and weekends. It means we can get the same practice at the seaports if we persist and that is the responsibility of Shippers’ Council,” Ogunjemite added.
Speaking with MMS Plus newspaper on this issue, the Public Relations Officer of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Mr. Stanley Ezenga lamented that most containers stay more than fifteen days at the ports for reasons beyond the importer or the freight forwarders.
“As I speak to you I have a case of a container that has stayed at the terminal for almost a month and they haven’t dropped that consignment. I have booked for the examination but it hasn’t been done. There are several factors that come up which would see a container spend more than thirty days at the ports and these aren’t as a result of inefficiency on the part of the freight forwarders”, he said.
Recall that it was only three days free rent period before it was increased to five days after serious advocacy by several freight forwarding groups and port stakeholders.
“This is part of the advocacy that NAGAFF would take up. Now that 15 days appears to be unrealistic as a result of numerous factors, it is pertinent that we begin to clamour for an extension of the free rent period to ten days. The government has said 48 hours cargo clearance but that appears to be a mirage. The stipulations on the Ease of Doing Business are also not working. So, we have to begin to advocate for ten days free rent so that importers and freight forwarders can evacuate their cargoes without paying demurrage or only paying for few days”, Ezenga said.
When contacted, the Director, Consumer Affairs, NSC, Chief Cajetan Agu noted that the government was concerned by the fiscal constraints.
“The free rent period for terminals is three days while free demurrage period for shipping companies is five days. The Council is concerned about these huge sums lost to shipping companies and terminal operators”, he said.
According to him, the government has initiated plans to review the rate of free rent period and free demurrage period and appropriate decisions would be taken as soon as possible.