“The after effect of the needless strike that crippled Apapa port for eleven days is the tonic NAGAFF needed to do things differently because we cannot continue this way,” says the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF).
In a statement signed by its National Public Relations Officer, Simeon Nwonu on Monday, the association said it would not participate in any strike targeted at APM Terminals in the future because strikes are inimical to the well being of the nation’s economy and because it is wrong to blame the company for problems bedevilling the nation’s seaport.
“It is sad to note that an avoidable circumstance may have cost the Nigerian economy well over N40 billion excluding the aspects of ships waiting time in our ports during the strike.
“For the avoidance of doubts, it is on record that the alleged complaint against APMT operations is not peculiar to Apapa port. The issue of arbitrary charges is a matter that affect almost all the terminal operators in the Nigerian Ports. This matter at present is being handled by the Nigerian Shippers Council as the commercial regulator. “We are aware that a case is pending at the High Court between the terminal operators and Nigerian Shippers Council with regards to arbitrary charges. In a civilized society where the rule of law is observed, there was no reason for the strike because it is in contempt. This is aside the fact that NSC issued a letter to all the stakeholders to the effect that there is no need for such strike since a similar matter is pending in court.
“It is our belief that he who goes to equity must come with clean hands. AP Moller is a world class terminal operator and an investor in Nigeria that requires the support and protection in our country. If the agency of the government that had the schedule to administer our ports had performed well, it is obvious that our ports may not have been concessioned,” NAGAFF stated.
The association said that the operation of APM Terminals Apapa, which it described as a world class terminal operator, may be hampered by several factors including the non-compliant attitude of the importers and agents.
“And for the avoidance of doubt, it is on record that AP Moller is a world-class terminal operator who may be currently frustrated due to the non-compliant attitude of stakeholders to import regulations. The Nigerian seaports like any other all over the world is a transit area for goods and persons. What we see today is that ports are being used as warehouses and thereby distorting the entire system in ports administration and management.
“The impunity with which port users are doing things is frustrating, leading to harsh sanctions by the terminal operators. If we do not obey and enforce our laws it is our belief that we shall continue to complain.
“As a reference point, section 31 of CEMA (Customs and Excise Management Act) is very clear as to the dwell time of cargo in the port which shall not exceed 30 days and thereafter such goods are moved out of the port control for further action including but not limited to processes leading to auctioning.
“In our opinion, it is our view that APMT is not our problem but what we have is a self inflicted injury,” the leading freight forwarding association stated.
NAGAFF also charged the Nigerian Ports Authority to exercise its powers to create the environment for a user-friendly port.
Its statement further reads: “A very good example and experience is that of the Nigeria Customs Service who by the special grace of God has retrieved their statutory function from the service providers after several years of battle with the help of freight forwarders of Nigeria. We do hope that Nigerian Ports Authority will take advantage using their oversight functions duty to ensure that our ports are friendly and competitive.
“The essence and primary objective of port concessioning is to bring about efficiency, competitiveness and reduction of cost. It is most unfortunate that human element problems including but not limited to corruption, non-compliance to import regulations, disregard for rule of law and inadequate handling equipment are the bane of our port operations.”
NAGAFF queried why uncleared cargo lists are not being prepared and overtime cargo transferred to the designated outer terminals. It said progressive port charges for unlawful stay of cargo at the ports became necessary as a deterrent to the defaulters while the frequent breakdown of scanners at the port has contributed to the delays being experienced in cargo clearance.
“The Government itself has a share of the problems in our ports because there are no reasons why Nigeria Customs Service will continue to administer PAAR regime and maintenance of the scanners with a meager sum of 7% of duty collected.
“This is aside the general welfare of officers and men, salary, capital projects and other logistics required to ensure an efficient Custom operations. It is our view that the last strike in Apapa port was a needless one. We advocate that Nigeria Shippers Council be allowed to conclude the ongong court processes with the terminal operators to resolve the issue of arbitrary charges and other incidentals.
“The statement credited to some of the associations that APMT is not observing the memo of understanding with the stakeholders over the last strike does not hold facts because it is not true.
“Accordingly all NAGAFF members are hereby directed to exercise restraint in any matter leading to the closure of the port without exhausting all amicable avenues with the authority,” the association concluded.—Ships and Ports