By Kenneth Jukpor & Ayoola Olaitan
The Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc and Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) have insisted that there will be no waivers on demurrage charges for goods uncleared as well as consignments which arrived during the lockdown.
Both ground handling companies made this known earlier today even as they directed freight forwarders to channel their complaints to Aviation authorities.
The companies stressed that payment for demurrage charges for the period under lockdown would continue as there wasn’t any directive from the government indicating any financial exchange or storage waiver in the aviation sector.
Last week, freight forwarders held a protest at the Lagos airport demanding that NAHCO and SAHCO should grant 100 percent waivers on cargo during the lockdown period just as it is applicable in the seaports.
However, a news release signed by the NAHCO Head, Corporate Communications, Mr. Samuel Akinrinmade said that “Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc (NAHCO) and other Ground Handling Companies have had to provide critical handling services in support the management of and fight against COVID 19 at extra costs and in the challenging circumstances in the last 6 weeks of lockdown and closure of airports and airspace (except for approved essential and emergency flights).
“Warehousing services especially ensuring shipments in the custody of the Ground Handling Companies are kept safe, and in good condition have also been at a huge cost. Cargo agents are asking for 100 per cent waiver on storage, their demand is based on the premise that an agency of Government, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) is taking on the financial burden of the 100 per cent waiver at the seaports and issuing credit notes to Port Terminal Operators”.
“This is not the case in aviation, as Ground Handling Companies have not been informed by Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) or Federal Airports Authority (FAAN) that Government is giving any financial exchange for storage waiver in the aviation sector. We have shared this fact with the cargo agents and asked them to direct their protest appropriately”.
NAHCO admonished freight forwarders to direct their grievances in the right direction away from the Ground Handling Companies to the appropriate quarters to ensure their desire results of equity in all Customs Bonded Warehouse whether in the seaport or airport.
A separate release by SAHCO PRO, Mrs. Vanessa Uansohia said, “Regarding 100% waivers of demurrage of cargo handled during the lockdown. At the seaport NPA absorbed the weaver by giving credit notes to the terminal operators to cover demurrage during the period”.
“There is no such scheme in place for waiver in the aviation industry that we have been notified of . There is no provision in the aviation sector for Government either directly or through FAAN our Landlord or NCAA to absorb the financial impact of any waiver that we are aware of. The Aviation industry is bearing the brunt of COVID 19″.
According to her, the situation is worsened for us as any organisation by the massive drop in revenue which at the last estimate was about 90%”.
“Ground handlers employ over 4000 Nigerians directly and impact hundreds of thousands directly and indirectly, we have lost over 90% of our revenue and have material cash crunch, we are unable to meet our staff salaries going forward, neither are we able to meet other obligations”.
However, the freight agents under the aegis of Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics on Nigeria (APFFLON) made appeal last week during a press briefing in Lagos.
The association lamented that business activities at the cargo section of Lagos airports were grounded throughout last week as freight agents protested at the ground handling companies over unnecessary storage charges demanded by the ground handling companies.
On the new press releases by the ground her APFFLON President, Mr. Frank Ogunojemite said, “It is so sad the ground handling companies could issue such a press release that there won’t be any waiver. Firstly, they initially proposed 50 percent and now they are saying no waiver, why did they proposed that earlier?”
“Also, they are talking about the compensation NPA gave, did they ask FAAN for such compensation themselves? Are they expecting freight agents to do that on their behalf? This means they do not have the feelings of the importers at heart. Their only motive is to collect money. Since there was movement of essential goods during the lockdown; what was the provision for the operations after the lockdown or the Post COVID-19 era?”
“They choose to compare themselves to terminal operators at the seaports; why didn’t they learn from them how the waivers were implemented,” the APFFLON boss queried.