By Elizabeth Chukwuma
fears of Congestions at Lagos ports of Apapa, Tin can Island Port, portmultiservices Terminal Limited, PTML,brigtens. This is because of the reluctance of the importers with their to take delivery of their Containers.
The Vaue News findings findings shows that the agents refusal to take their Clients cargoes may not be unconnected to the Terminal Operators and shipping companies insistence of collecting Demurrage on importers goods from their agents . With the lockdown, Hajia hAdiza Bala Usman Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, had tried to resolve the crisis of granting waiver to the agents by writing to the Concessionaires and the shipping companies not to collect rent and demurrage for their services from agents for use of their facililities within the period of the lockdown, which was initially two weeks, before it was extended for another two weeks by President Muhammaduhari, because it was a government policy. They were said to have ignored the NPA directive , waiting for a time the agents would come to take delivery of their Clients cargoes at their terminal to demand for payment of their rent and demurrage or the Consignment .
The opportunity came when Hajia Usman and Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council pleaded with the importers with their agents to take advantage of the lock down of Lagos, Ogun and Abuja, Federal Capital territory , FCT, to take delivery of their cargoes. Initially, the agents were reluctant to do so but the intervention of the duo gave them encouragement to do so. The Magazine learnt that the agents never had any problem with the Nigerian Customs Services, National Agency For Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC and Standard Organisation of Nigeria, SON, including other security agencies personnel at the port but those of the Terminal Operators and the shipping companies over rent and demurrage.
The agents problems with the Terminal Operators and shipping companies who insisted on collecting all their rents and demurrage as cautioned against by NPA, may have opened the door of opposition to kick against them. One of the critics was National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, NCMDLCA. who could not stand the intransigence of the Terminal Operators and Shipping companies had petitioned the government over their action.
Amiwero, who could not hide his feelings commended Hajia usman, the NPA, Managing Director the 14 days waiver and extension to accommodate the extension of the lockdown granted agents , stressing that it will bring about stability in the operations of the port , which had had be opened for skeletal operations.
Indeed, the refusal of the Terminal Operators and the shipping companies to grant waivers to agents as directed by NPA, may have informed why NSC spoke its silence by urging them to suspend the demurrage charges on goods at the ports in view of the difficulties which importers with agents have been encountering in taking delivery of their cargoes in Lagos ports since the government opened the Lagos Lagos ports to take delivery of their cargoes.
The Council had was said to have warned that the demurrage collected from agents must be refunded but that was how far it could go.
The Terminal Operators and the shipping companies which believes that they are in Nigerian ports to make profit and therefore, NPA has no right to issue directives to them may have contacted their Head office which may have asked asked them to collect their rent and demurrage or the government should be ready to pay them for the period of the lockdown. This is where NPA may not take it because it is a global problem that informed the government to announce the Lock down an extended it by another two weeks.
The refusal of the Terminal Operators and shipping Companies operating in Nigeria to abide by NPA directive to stop the collection of rents and demurrage from importers with their agents within the period of the lockdown may have forced many agents to abandon their Clients cargoes at the ports, showing signs of Congestions at the Lagos ports.
A senior Customs officer attached to Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone C, Benin Toll gate, disclosed that the situation at the Lagos ports is worrisome. The Officer disclosed that prior to the lock down they could treat seven to ten cases released from Lagos going to the south east daily . He noted that despite the lockdown and the opening of the Lagos ports for importers to take delivery of their cargoes, they could hardly treat three Containers daily, fueling speculations making the round that most of the importers are waiting for the ports to be fully opened to take delivery of their good
They may have played played in to the hands Kayode Opifa, Vice Chairman ,of the Presidential Task Team on Apapagridlock which has rolled new guidelines on movement of truck. One of the guidelines has restricted the movement of trucks evacuating the ports to a certain time of the day which favour the agents since shipping is an International business.. The guideline may not have favoured Seaports Terminal Operators of Nigeria, STOAN, as they kicked against it lamenting that it will cause hardship than ever ever before for . They knew the Presidential task Team have known their tricks of cheating the agents and that that is why they have cried out over the guidelines recently released by the Team