Crisis looms, as freight forwarders prepare to decide on peace disruption

Prince Olayiwola Shittu

Crisis now looms in the nation’s maritime industry as freight forwarders slate a crucial meeting for Tuesday to decide when the group may embark on a new chain of protests to force the Government to pursue policies that would be more people friendly.

The National President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu who confirmed this, also said the meeting would involve the association’s Board of Trustees (BOT), NECOM, Zonal Officers, Chapter Executives, as well as Chairmen and Secretaries of National Committees.

“The emergency meeting is to discuss impending withdrawal of services” Shittu stated, highlighting that the entire leadership must necessarily address “operational challenges” currently confronting all the ports and borders in the country, in the overall interest of industry operators.

Another member of the group who spoke on condition of anonymity however told the Maritime First that the National President had been under some pressure to call for a nationwide strike, as strikes now seemingly appear to be the only language the Government of President Goodluck Jonathan tend to recognize or respect, hence the decision of Shittu to insist on a comprehensive attendance of the meeting to take the crucial decision.

“The President had been striving to ensure sanity among membership, particularly in his bid to avoid whatever could make the authorities accuse him of working for the opposition”, the seasoned operator indicated, adding that only a few days ago, the National President assisted in ending a 10-day old protest embarked upon by Licensed Customs Clearing agents against the vexatious double charging on imports by some foreign airlines, for the same reasons.

Highlighting that while the strike action was suspended temporarily last Wednesday(July 16), pending the final resolution expected off a meeting between NCAA and the foreign airlines, who form just a small percentage of the total number of airlines bringing cargo to Nigeria, so as to enable the expected enforcement of an earlier written order by the regulator of the industry, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), to stop the double charges, the aim had been in genuine desire to ensure peace.

Asked why the Customs brokers should engage themselves in a battle that ought to have been fought by NCAA, he explained the group took the decision after it became difficult to ascertain whether or not, NCAA was deliberately passive.

“All the charges for imported cargo are already paid by the shipper abroad. What is expected of the foreign airlines is to deliver cargo to the importer, through the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO/AVIANCE) who in turn had to charge cargo handling charge, for keeping the cargo and ensuring it is safely and securely delivered to the consignee. It has however remained a case of double charging in Nigeria”, he noted, adding that the temporary strike suspension was achieved after Shittu, led a delegation of National officers to the MMIA Chapter to stage a peaceful protest to the Customs Area Comptroller, NAHCO to explain the reasons for the protest, seeking their understanding and, noting that the protest is not against them but the foreign airlines who have continuously fleeced Nigerians of their hard earned monies with impurity.
“Subsequently, at a joint meeting in the offices of NAHCO which saw all relevant agencies at the airport in attendance, it was decided to immediately suspend the protest, while a lasting solution is expected out of a final resolution meeting of the airlines and NCAA” he posited further.

Meanwhile, Nigerians have begun to note that with soaring statistics of strike actions by stakeholders, the present administration may soon break all known records, for beating previous governments in the unenviable area of strikes.

It would be recalled that asides from the nationwide fuel protests and strike actions that heralded Jonathan’s forage in the petroleum sector in January 2012, the country has since witnessed avoidable work stoppage in the education, health sectors, public service, etc.