By Funso Olojo.
Agitated Freight Forwarders are currently spoiling for a war with the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, over what they called the failed call-up system of the agency.
The freight forwarders , who congregated under a common platform, observed that the collapse of the call-up system introduced by NPA to sanitise and streamline truck access to the port, has thrown up huge operational challenges that are threatening to muzzle them out of business
Tanko Ibrahim, the Vice-President , Western Zone of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders,NAGAFF, who was said to have rallied together all the freight forwarders in other sister associations, had said that the terminals operators, shipping companies and the Presidential TaskTteam, PTT, on the Apapa traffic gridlock have all cashed in on the chaos that had resulted from the failed call-up system to subject freight forwarders to unwarranted extortion and harassment.
Ibrahim disclosed that as a result of these challenges, the concerned freight forwarders have written to the authority to convene a meeting of the relevant stakeholders to address the problems.He noted that ‘’the NPA call-up system had collapsed due to the failure of the shipping companies to adhere to theAuthority directive to have holding bays’’.
He further stated that the terminal operators, especially the APMT, which takes in the highest number of trucks, lacks adequate cargo handling equipment which had made trucks cleared to access the terminal as they get stranded at the gate, thereby causing long queues on the access roads” .
According to him, this development has now created traffic nightmare on the port access roads which has thrown up lots of challenges. An aggrieved Ibrahim said the PTT, has cashed in on the situation to ‘’subject truckers to mindless extortion’’.
” He alleged that they now demand the sum of N200,000 per truck before they are given access into the port. Given an insider information, he said ‘’They humiliate, molest and harass truck ‘drivers in the course of perpetrating this illegality. “Consequently, these truckers build in these unreceipted charges to the cost of evacuating our containers out of the ports’’, he added.
This is evident going by the exorbitant cost of transferring Containers from the ports to the terminals outside the port. “Take for instance, to transfer port a 40 ft container from Apapa to ASPANDA on the Lagos- Badagry road, they charge N700,000 .00 against the initial N50,000-N80,000 cost.”
He noted that as a result of the gridlock, the shipping companies also slam on them huge and unwarranted demurrage charges, while their containers deposits are usually mutilated when returned .
More worrisome, the freight forwarders complained that their Terminal Delivery Order, TDO, issued by the shipping companies usually get expired as truck drivers are perpetually entangled in the traffic mayhem.
He lamented that the Shipping companies would always insist on revalidation of the TDO at a cost, which they consider as outrageous. “These operational challenges thrown up by the gridlock have placed additional financial burden on the freight forwarders and their principals due to no fault of theirs, he remarked.
Last week, the concerned freight forwarders who had convened a meeting in Lagos, where they were aid to have invited the NPA, Nigerian Shippers ‘Council, NSC, Shipping Companies , Terminal operators , NARTO, AMATO, Maritime Police and all the freight forwarding associations of ANLCA, NAGAFF, AREFF, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents,, NCMDLCA, and relevant industry stakeholders in order to find a lasting solution to the Apapa grid and extortion by security operatives..
And Insider informe The Value News that NPA, NSC, and the various freight forwarders Associations had honoured the invitation for the meeting, the shipping companies and terminal operators, who were said to be the major the major culprits of these illegalities, had stayed away, which the Converners of the meeting did not find funny..
This may have informed why the agents have asked the NPA management to convene another meeting where all the stakeholders, including the recalcitrant shipping companies and terminal operators, would be compelled to attend. They may have resolved to ask the Authority to do so as the regulatory agency, which have enough clout to compel the terminal operators and the shiping Companies officials to attend.
The Magazine learnt that Ibrahim and his group have already sent letter addressed to the NPA Executive Director, Marine and Operations, requesting that as a matter of urgency, it should convene an urgent summit of all the stakeholders in the industry to address the identified operational challenges.
In the letter, which receipt was said to have been acknowledged by NPA on November 29th, 2019, may have emboldened the group to warn that if the Authority fail to convene the meeting “to forestall further restiveness at the port before it snowballs into an unmanageable crisis ‘’They would not hesitate to withdraw their services which have a telling effect the various government agencies and other stake stakes which depend on cargo traffic at the port for their revenue generation including the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS.
It is not surprising why the group has given the Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman led NPA a 21-day ultimatum from the day the Authority received its letter, to convene meeting to address their Complaints to avoid throwing the ports into chaos.
Meanwhile, Kayode Opeifa, Vice Chairman, PTT, Apapa Traffic, has dismissed the allegation of extortion against the Team, describing it as baseless and an attempt to blackmail them.
“It is corruption fighting back” he declared .He insists that it is pure mischief and uncharitable to ascribe access clearance for trucks to enter the terminals to the team.
“That is not our responsibility. It is the responsibility of the NPA to issue call up notice to the truckers”‘ Opeifa maintained.
He disclosed that the claims by the freight forwarders that truckers pay N200,000 as bribe to enter the port is blatant lie and an attempt to justify the huge charges the truckers put on their services.”Who do they give the money to? It is a trump up allegation by the freight forwarders to extort their principals” Opeifa noted.
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