COVID 19 Lock Down: Terminal Operators Waiting For The Importers With Their Agents At The Ports To Take Delivery Of Their Cargo

By Elizabeth Chukwuma

Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Federal government  appears  to  have stepped in to encourage  importers with their  agents to take advantage of the soft -landing  granted them by President Muhammadu Buhari to take  delivery of their cargoes at the Lagos seaports to avoid  Congestion. 

The Katsina state born Nigerian President had on Sunday, March 29, 2020, ordered a complete lockdown of the economy of Lagos, the nation’s Commercial hub, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. The Presidential order also  affected  ministries, agencies and Parastatals.

The Presidential order was also extended to Ogun state. The President may have  been given the ammunition to extend to Lock down to the south west state of Ogun, because of its proximity to Lagos in order to control the heavy traffic  between the states.

In spite of the soft-landing granted to the importers with their agents to take  advantage of the two weeks, COVID 19 Lock down of Lagos, Abuja and Ogun state, to  decongest the Lagos ports  of Apapa, Tin-can Island, Port Multi-services Terminal limite, PTML, KiriKiri Lighter Terminal, KLT, Phases I and 11, the Customs Brokers, Freight Forwarders and Haulage Operators, appear reluctant to do so.

The situation is so bad as virtually all the terminal operators  are  no longer finding because of the build- up of Congestion  at the ports. The Ocean-going vessels which could not be  stopped from coming into the ports to discharge their cargoes are still doing so on a daily  basis.

At Apapa port, this is  giving   Olotu Bolanle  Fumilayo, the port Manager Manger,a cause for concern as  the workers including the Dockworkers are on ground  to attend to facilitate the discharge of cargoes from the vessels.

The Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders, who may have attempted to delivery f their cargo at the ports may not have been happy at the treatment they got from the  security  agencies personnel at the port and its environs who were said  very  harsh, insisting they must  observe the two weeks  COVID19  lockdown.

The agents  may have cried out to Tony Nwabunike, President , Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, to intervene to save the situation from degenerating and to avoid making nonsense of the Presidential directive. Nwabunike, in turn was said to have taken up the matter with Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the  Government and who incidentally was a former Managing Director, of Nigerian Inland Water Ways Authority, NIWA.

Mustapha may have known the implications of the   Customs Brokers, Freight Forwarders and Haulage Operators  not being allowed to take delivery of their cargoes at the port on the  N2 trillion revenue target set for  the Nigerian Customs ervice, NCS, on non- oil  imports and exports.

  He was said to have reached  out Mohammed Adamu , the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Turkur Buratai, a Lt. General and Chief of Army Staff, CAS, and Heads of other security agencies, whose  personnel are   on the road to enforce the  Presidential  directive.A

A source informed The Value News that he he had told  them  that ”all Customs brokers, Freight Forwarders and Haulage Operators are exempted from the COVID 19, lock down  because of their essential service in this trying and difficult times”. He had  directed  the Heads of the security agencies  to instruct their  officers operating  within and outside  the ports, particular, hakeem Odumosu,  the Lagos state Commissioner of police, to ensure that his men would not arrest  or prevent any Customs Brokers, Freight Forwarders and Haulage Operators doing his or her legitimate business.

Acting on the instruction of the  Secretary to the government, the  ANLCA President has a word of advice for members  that the only way to avoid playing into the hands  of the security agencies within this period of the  COVID 19 lock down  is to  ensure  they are armed  with  their  port pass and Company Identity Cards  in order to separate them from the street urchins who might  want to take advantage of the two weeks forced holiday to penetrate the ports and broke into Containers to steal at night.

The good news was that giving the importance attached to the services of the Customs Brokers, Freight Forwarders and Haulage Operators in this trying and difficult time, the government was said to have ordered the deposit banks which branches had been under lock and key in compliance of the Presidential directive  to open and attend to Customers.

Nwabunike Tony Iju: ANLCA President

This may have given ammunition to the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders to process their import documents’ and make the appropriate duty payment as well as withdraw  money to run  their offices and  hire the haulage  trucks  to facilitate the delivery of their cargo from the ports.

Appealing to the members who have cargo  to take delivery at the ports, Nwabunike, who was full of appreciation to Mustapha, for his intervention  urged members that they are free  to approach their banks  starting from  the Wednesday, April 1, 2020, that the banks were asked  to resume full operation or on Thursday, April 2, 2020. He had  assured them that they have no cause to worry as they would conduct their financial transaction at the bank without hitches. He is right.

Given the intervention of Mustapha, the Secretary to the government to restore full activities at the ports, the ANLCA  helmsman  was said to have also expressed  his appreciation  to Hassan Bello, a Lawyer and Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, for his Professional and prompt handling of the situation.

Already the officials  of Council of Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, CRFFN, were said to have embarked on a sensitisation Campaign visit to the Lagos  ports  in order to encourage  the Customs Brokers, Freight Forwarders and Haulage Operators to go about their normal business without fear of molestation by security agencies personnel at the port.

The CRFFN, officials may have made the agents to understand that the NPA, Terminal Operators  and the Customs officials  are on ground to attend to them. Indeed, the CRFFN, officials, may have put smiles on  the faces of the  Agents and  the Haulage Operators when they told those they had met at the ports that the  security agencies found within and outside port environment are there  to guarantee their security and protection of their cargo.                  

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