By Kenneth Jukpor
Despite President Mohammadu Buhari’s directive that airport operations be shutdown completely to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country, normal operations at the cargo section of Lagos airport gives an indication that freight forwaders would be slammed colossal sums as demurrage after the lockdown.
MMS Plus investigations show that Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc and Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) have continued operations on cargoes that don’t classify as emergency or essential goods.
Speaking with our correspondent on this issue, the President of Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics on Nigeria (APFFLON) Mr. Frank Ogunojemite said that President Mohammadu Buhari’s directive was clear as it indicated that all airport operations should be suspended.
The APFFLON boss expressed worry that the full blown operations at the Lagos airport may see the ground handling companies demand colossal figures as demurrage after the lockdown.
“Since President Buhari’s directive suspending airport operations, there hasn’t been another circular or statement directing airports to reopen. I assume that any activity at the airport would be essential but the volume of activities observed at NAHCO and SAHCO last week and this week is alarming”
“NAHCO and SAHCO have been operating as they usually do. In fact, the place is as busy as a market. Yet, we say there is a lockdown. I’m really disturbed by this development. There are lots of trailers loading consignments and there are no safety measures like hand sanitizers and provision for hand washing,” Ogunojemite lamented.
He maintained that the freight forwarders in the aviation sector have the impression that NAHCO and SAHCO aren’t working, hence they would kick against any extortion via demurrages for the period under the lockdown.
Meanwhile, in a recent emergency operational meeting organized by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) which had other government agencies and aviation handling companies at cargo terminal at MMA, all stakeholders agreed to adhere strictly to safety measures including social distancing, regular hand washing, use of sanitizers, among others.
At the meeting which took place at the MMA conference room to consider the most appropriate ways to conduct operations with consideration for public health and safety in view of the current challenges arising from the COVID- 19 pandemic, there were exhaustive discussions and interactions and some of the measures adopted include; “the Terminal shall be opened to a minimal number of staff of Agencies and Handling companies with proper identification at their normal operating hours. It shall be opened to Cargo/Freight Agents between 9am to 5pm. ”
The meeting which held before President Buhari declared the initial 14days lockdown in Lagos, also directed all ‘authorized occupants of vehicles except the driver are to compulsorily disembark for security check and access through the pedestrian gate where the Port Health Services officials shall carry out their Temperature reading”
“A temporary office shall be created at the Hajj and Cargo Terminal Access Gate for Screening of Cargo/Freight Agents for the purpose of granting access to only approved ones.’
“Presentation of Nigeria Customs Service Form C30 and original Airway Bill of goods to be handled by Cargo/Freight Agent shall be pre requisite for issuance of access cards. The document shall be vetted and approved by the Nigeria Customs Service officials at the temporary office and subsequently, FAAN AVSEC shall issue Access cards to approved agents,” the communiqué said.
In another development, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika yesterday, disclosed that the airports would remain closed for commercial activities for another two weeks.
Sirika revealed this via Twitter, noting that the airports would no longer open for commercial operations on April 23 due to the extended lockdown in the three cities.
“As a result of the extension on lockdown by Mr President, it is no longer possible for us to open our airspace and airports for normal operations by the 23rd April 2020. They will remain closed for a further two weeks. This subject to review as appropriate,” the Minister said.