…Says President Buhari’s directive is sacrosanct!***
Against the backdrop of a recent Presidential directive mandating the opening of Lagos ports for business, the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) has called all relevant Government agencies and stakeholders to mobilise to ports, for active cargo clearing regime.
President Muhammadu Buhari in a nationwide address on 29th March 2020, while prescribing measures towards curbing the spread of COVID 19, also directed through the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Federal Ministry of Health, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Port Health Services, Security Agencies, etc., to keep the ports of Lagos open and running.
Pointing out the need to actively act in full compliance of Buhari’s directives, the NSC management specially called on the following bodies, to mobilise to ports with immediate effect.
These were: the Nigeria Customs Service;
Nigerian Ports Authority;
Nigerian Shippers’ Council;
Nigerian Railway Corporation; (Freight services)
National Inland Waterways Authority;
Port Health Services;
Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency;
National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control;
Standards Organisation of Nigeria;
National Environmental Standards and Regulation Enforcement Agency;
All Seaport Terminal Operators;
Freight Forwarding Services;
Marine and Port Police;
Cargo Truck Drivers;
Banks; and other service users or providers at the ports.
“The President has made it clear that ports stay operational. Port workers, users and providers of services as well as government agencies are part of essential services and should have unfettered access to the ports.
“The President also directed that there should be movement of cargo as long as they have been subjected to necessary checks. For cargo delivery and evacuation from seaports to be effective, interstate cargo movement by road and rail should not be restricted.
“In that regard and to ensure uninterrupted supply of crucial commodities, the following services shall remain open during this period, albeit with minimal operations to enable the ports function, while access will be restricted and closely monitored. The agencies/organizations/services exempted are:
“NOTWITHSTANDING the above, field and operational officers as well as essential staff of above agencies/ organizations shall be granted access and freedom of movement to and from the ports, upon presentation of valid means of identification duly issued by the respective agencies, organisations, and services listed above.
“Further, these exempted agencies, organizations, services and their personnel must operate in accordance with guidelines issued by health authorities in that regard.
“This present situation has indeed caused unimaginable disruption of the logistics supply chain.
“Users and providers of services are seemingly unable to carry out their obligations for reasons beyond their control.
“Nigeria Shippers’ Council, as Port Economic Regulator and an arbiter, is conscious of the fact that obligations, responsibilities, duties, and rights may have been frustrated.
“Therefore, Nigerian Shippers’ Council is discussing with all parties so that a balanced solution can be achieved especially the issue of demurrage and incentives to facilitate the clearance of goods from the ports”, the Shippers Council also said.
The Council noted the devastating effect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) which made it mandatory for these restrictions, expressing its belief that they remain critical to the reduction of transmission of the disease so that health professionals can cope with the challenge.
“As an intervention, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), has donated protective gears for port users worth N5m to be distributed to relevant field and operational staff. The Council also donates the sum of N5,000,000.00 (Five Million Naira) only to be used collectively in the fight against COVID-19 in Lagos and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
“In addition, in order to ease the movement of accredited freight forwarders who have business to conduct at the ports and other port users, Nigerian Shippers’ Council is providing buses to and from the ports.
“The buses will leave the following locations at 8am during this period with effect from 1st April, 2020:
Festac (by Apple junction)
Okokomaiko (at Alakija under bridge)
Surulere (by National Stadium)
Oshodi (at Charity bus stop)
Ikeja(at Ikeja along bus stop)
“Nigerian Shippers’ Council has been inundated with complaints that banks are not offering services with respect to port operations. This, without doubt, hampers cargo clearance from the ports.
“The attention of the banks is, therefore, drawn to the Notice by the Federal Ministry of Finance and Central Bank of Nigeria, which allows operations in the financial system. We note that port operations as indicated by the President are essential and critical services.
“Nigerian Shippers’ Council calls for synergy amongst port users and government agencies to support the Federal Government in containing the scourge of the deadly virus while making it possible to sustain port operations during this period”, Hassan Bello further indicated.
In the meantime, the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders has urged Government for a total lockdown of the ports, stressing that social distancing has been fully compromised and warning that it’s repercussions May be severely dangerous.