cOVID19: NPA Shut Corporate Headquarters, Opens Lagos Ports For Operations

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ByBy Stephen Ubanna

Those who think that the gates of the Lagos  Apapa and Tin can island ports including  Port Multi-services Terminal Limited , Kirikiri Lighter Terminal Phases 1 and II, would be thrown  open for all manner of port users would be disappointed.

 President Muhammadu Buhari had directed   that the Lagos seaports   would be opened for operation for the two  weeks of the lockdown of the nation’s Commercial nerve center, Lagos, Abuja the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, and Ogun state to enable importers with their agents take delivery of their cargoes as shipping is an  International business .  More,so, there is no country in the world, not even  China, South Korea, Italy, Spain and the North American country of United States, US, that had had the highest number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus victims  and reported deaths that the seaports were  shut down. He was shut down.

Boniface Aniebonam: Founder, NAGAFF

Adams Jatto, an Engineer and General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, reportedly said that the Lagos ports may not have been shut to avoid shutting down the entire country’s economy. He noted that as the gateway to the nation’s economy for export and imports of goods to keep the economy going, it is to  ensure  that there is no drop in the supply of Petroleum Products in the country that might further  dislocate the economy.

Indeed, the government could not have contemplated shutting down  the entire ports in the  country because the  imported protective Medical materials to contain the virus could only come into the country could only come into the country  through the seaports. 

 The Value News  learnt that , Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, the Managing Director, NPA,  had directed the port Chief Security Officer , CSO, to ensure  strict Compliance to the government policy.

True to the Presidential directive the Lagos ports  were opened for business but the Administrative Headquarters at Marina, was been shut down in Compliance with the President’s order that Shops and Offices including schools should not be opened for business in Lagos, Ogun and  Abuja, for two weeks period of the lock down.

Aware that some  street urchins might want to pose as agents in order to gain access to the seaport at this trying and difficult times,,  Tony Nwabunike, President, Association of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, who had promised  to keep members informed   with the extent to which the ports operations would go in the fight  to contain the spread of the COVID 19  in the country had kept to his words.

He had made the members to understand that after due Consultation with the agency officials, they confirmed that Customs Brokers, Freight Forwarders and Haulage Operators, whose services are essential at the ports have no cause to worry as they are most needed  for the movement of cargoes in and out of the ports.

 Perhaps, to avoid abuse  of the government decision to  keep the Lagos ports open for business Transactions as obtained in other parts of the world, the ANLCA  President had warned   members who had no business or Consignment to take delivery at the port  to avoid loitering around the premises because the security operatives are all over  the port environment to enforce the Presidential directive of social distancing.The ANLCA President  was emphatic, that only members who  job at the port should be found at the port environment  to avoid  playing into the hands of security operatives.

Note that Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Customs Comptroller General  has directed” full  Customs personnel  presence  at the Terminals  to attend to importers with their agents’’, meaning that  that there would be no reason for any Customs officer  not to be at his duty post to attend to them.The implication, he further said  was that  “ necessary  formalities for processing  and clearance  of cargoes  from the Lagos seaports would go not unhindered”.

Bonniface Anniebonam, Founder, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF,  who had initially  planned to mobilise his members to lock down the Western and Eastern seaports because of the increasing number of Coronavirus victims in the country may have bowed  to the superior  presidential  order allowing importers with their agents to take  delivery  d of their cargoe at the Lagos ports within the period of the restriction to shelve the plan.

Appealing to members who have no business at the port within the period of the restriction of movement  order to “stay off “ the  ports environment”, the NAGAFF, Founder had said this has become necessary for   Practioners  safety and protection .

He has a word of advice for the  Freight Forwarders.”Should you  notice absence  of Customs  officers, Standard Organisation of Nigeria, SON, National Agency For Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC, Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA,   including the Nigerian Police Force, NPF, and the Department of State Security, DSS personnel,, who were supposed to participate in an examination of cargo  but are nowhere to be found, do not hesitate to report to the Association Executive   who are regular at the Secretaarita to take up the matter with the appropriate Authorities.

He may have gladdened the heart of members when he disclosed that the Management  are in touch with Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, and other members of the Management Team  including the Area Controllers to ensure that importers’ cargoes were not unnecessarily delayed at the port.

Given the soft landing granted the  importers with their agents to take delivery of their cargoes at the Lagos seaports,  Anniebonam would want officials of  , NPA, and  the Council for Registration of Freight Forwarders in Nigeria, CRFFN, to equally add value to the Presidential directive  to” enhance  Transportation-related matters” which , he believes  would make the” operation seamless  while observing the social distancing instructions”.

Many believe that without the step taken by  Nwabunike, the ANLCA, President andAnniebonam, the NAGAFF , founder, to reach out to their members   to furnish them repeatedly on the developments at the seaports within  this two weeks of   cessation of movements in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT, many Freight Forwarders  would have fallen into the waiting hands of Muhammed Adamu, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, and Tukur Buratai, a Lt.General and Chief of Army Staff, CASA, men deployed to  enforce the government policy on the road.

In spite of the soft landing granted to the Freight Forwarders to take delivery of their cargoes at the Lagos, not many are still ready to do so as  Congestion had started  building  up at APM Terminal, The Tin-can Island Port and Cargo and Port Cargo Terminals, TCT,   Port and Cargo terminals and other Terminals within the Lagos axis , an indication that the Barge Operators and Haulage operators would  have much job to do  at the expiration of the two weeks cessation of movement in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT. This is because importers with their agents would be forced to rush to Customs Formations to process their import documents in order to gain access to the ports to take delivery of their cargoes.

They may claim that they  do not  have access to the  Bank because of the social distancing order to make the relevant duty payments.  This may be far from the truth. The banks may have known that such problems would arise and were said to have done everything within their powers to meet the financial needs  of Customers in this rapidly changing situation .

Indeed, importers with their agents who bank with the United  Bank For Africa, UBA plc, a Pan African Bank, have no cause to complain  about the difficulty of transferring money to a particular Customs Araea Command  Account to facilitate processing of their import documents to take delivery of their cargoes.

Although the deposit  bank branches in Lagos and Ogun states including  the FCT, may not have opened for business to facilitate the transfer of funds, within this period of  restrictions of movement in these major Citities and Ogun state, but the Automotive Teller Machines, ATMs and the digital banking channels, according to banking sources are still available for Customers to carry out their financial transactions.

 This should serve as a good  news  for the  Importers with their agents to encourage them to hasten effort to  take delivery of their cargoes at the Lagos ports instead of creating artificial Congestion by abandoning it and then blaming it on the shutdown of the  banks  which had made it difficult to process their import duty payments and security operatives harassment on the road.

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