· As Aggrieved Freight Forwarders Issue FG 14-Day Ultimatum
By Kenneth Jukpor
The Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) have met with the Concerned Freight Forwarders in the Western Zone with assurances that their challenges would be addressed after the group planned to withdraw its services from the ports, last week.
Following the myriad of bottlenecks affecting Lagos ports as well as other ports in the region, the aggrieved freight forwarders issued the Federal Government a 14-day ultimatum to correct the anomaly and guarantee a healthy business environment for port business.
While the leadership of CRFFN met the members of the group on Monday, last week, Shippers’ Council also hosted them in strategic meeting to discuss the issues.
Some of the burning issues highlighted by the group, which planned to withdraw its services from the ports on Tuesday, March 26th, include the duplication of Customs operational services, proliferation of Customs operational units in Apapa, Tin Can, PTML, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, Lilypond ports, among other areas.
The group, whose members comprise leaders of the nation’s top freight forwarding groups, also lamented the illegal operational charges being levied by shipping companies, accusing them of sabotage for the lack of container holding bays.
They have also lamented the overbearing disposition of Customs officers towards freight forwarders, high handedness of terminal operators and poor state of the road networks in Apapa and its environs.
Speaking with MMS Plus on the group’s suspended strike action in Lagos last week, the Assistant Coordinator of the group, Mr. Ubaka Johnny said; “There are numerous challenges we have been facing at the ports, ranging from human element to the road infrastructure. For instance, the proliferation of Customs units in Apapa has become overbearing. We also have illegal charges by terminal operators and shipping companies”
“We have situations where it takes more than one month for an empty container to get back to the port because there are no holding bays and also as a result the poor state of the port access roads. Who pays for the demurrage that accrues on the truck as a result of these delays? It’s the freight forwarder” Ubaka lamented.
Complaining about the multiplicity of Customs units, he noted that there were more than seven Customs units less than 10km from the port when the ideal situation would be to have them outside the ports and 40km apart.
“There used to be five operational units in the ports but right now they have metamorphosed into 10 operational units. Some of these units include; CGC Strike Force, Customs Police Special Squad, Surveillance Units, Federal Operations Units, etc., discharging virtually the same functions thereby impeding smooth clearing of goods in the ports” he said.
He revealed that the group had discussed with the leadership of CRFFN on Monday and agreed to suspend the strike action after assurances by CRFFN to address the issues.
“CRFFN is the body set up to address issues affecting freight forwarding in the country. So, we are depending on them to dialogue with the respective agencies and address the issues. We also met with Shippers’ Council leadership on Wednesday and they assured us that they would tackle the problems within the 14-day ultimatum. Otherwise, we may not have any other option than to withdraw our services” he said.
The conveners of the group, which emerged as a result of the challenges in and around the Lagos ports, include; the Executive Chairman, Apapa Chapter, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Mr. Ndubuisi Uzoegbo, the Coordinator of Customs License Managing Directors, Mr. Ubaka Johnny, Executive Chairman Tin Can Chapter, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Prince Segun Oduntan, Executive Chairman, NAGAFF Tin Can Chapter, Chief Azubuike Ekweozor.
Others are; the Deputy National President NAGAFF, Western Zone, Alhaji Tanko Ibrahim, the Chairman, International Freight Forwarders Association (IFFA), Chief Dr. Osita Chukwu, the Executive Chairman ANLCA Apapa Chapter, Mr. Dom Onyeka.
Alhaji Kazeem Isah, Executive Chairman National Council Apapa, Mr. Osita Machie, Director Ossy Gold Ag. Ltd., Mr. Femi Ilori, Director FTI Shipping & Logistics, Lagos Nigeria and Barr. Henry Orarotimi, National Legal Adviser NAGAFF, are members of the group.