By Stephen Ubanna
In spite of efforts being made by Hassan Bello, a Lawyer and Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, to protect the interest of the Nigerian shippers in major trade routes across the world as well as well help reduce the road transport haulage rate of cargoes within the country, over the last one year, he appears to have attracted strong opposition who are working endlessly to facilitate his removal from office.
One of such groups which had turned against him was the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, under the close watch of Bonniface Anniebonnam. Acting on the mandate of the Association, Godfrey . C. Nwosu, the Tin can island Chapter, Secretary General, had petitioned Boss Mustapha, Secretary to government of the Federation on why Bello, the NSC, executive Secretary must go to restore normalcy to the nation’s maritime industry.
The NCMDLCA, petitioner, had catalogued the sins of the NSC, boss ranging from abuse of office, mal- administration, inability to enforce its Constitutional responsibility as a Maritime Regulator to connivance with shipping companies and terminal operators to worsen the financial burden of shippers in major trading routes . This is in addition to his failure to control the road transport haulage rates within the country .
Between April and June 2019, Bello , may have gladdened the heart of shippers, when he master-minded the release of an indicative Freight Rate for “20’’ and ‘’40’’, Containers that could be charged by shipping Companies on major trading International routes to Nigeria. The agency had fixed the freight rates of “20’’, Containers from Europe/Middle to Nigeria at $1,638, North America/Canada, $3,091, Far East, China and Spain, $3,088 while Far East/India, Australia was placed at $3,835.
The freight rates which the shipping companies were also asked to charge the shippers for ‘’40’’ Containers were said to be lower. This is evident going by the amount which the shipper was asked to pay if the ’’40’’ Containerised cargo is coming from Eurpe/Middle East, North America/ Canada, Far East, China and Spain or Far East, India and Australia to Nigeria.
A document made available to the Value News shows that the agency had pegged the freight rates for these major trading routes at $2,611, $2,587, $1,836 and $1,758 respectively. The rates, according to a source, are subject to review quarterly.
Shippers had expected Bello to mobilise his operational Staff to enforce the freight rates to ensure that the shipping Companies did not cheat the shippers but that was how far the agency could go. Bello was said to have further played into the hands of the NAGAFF, Tin can Chapter Executives, to work for his removal from his exalted position over the approved new haulage charges for truckers from the Lagos seaports and other ports at the south eastern part of the country.
Recall that the NSC , boss, had said the decision was basically to have a comprehensive and standard haulage rates for road transportation services for Containers in the country. The new rates were said to have been presented to the industry stakeholders at a Conference in Lagos by Bello, the NSC boss. He was to have told the industry stakeholders that the rates, described as “as ell structured and standardised , which were benchmarks for the road haulage transport are still subject to negotiation.
The Value News learnt the NSC, proposed new haulage rates for trucks carrying cargoes from the Lagos seaports and other ports in the country to the various destinations across the country, were approved at the Lagos Conference.
Nwosu, the Tin can Island NAGAFF, Chapter Secretary General had said that the road haulage rates which were proposed by the agency were totally at ‘’variance with the reality on ground’’. The Association and other groups including Association of Maritime Truck Owners, AMARTO And National Union of Road Transport Workers were said to have made input to the proposed rate but it was said to have been dumped by the agency.
Nwosu may have drawn the attention of Mustapha to this when he said ‘’whatever negotiations that that had been organised by the NSC, Executive Secretary on the new road haulage rates had not yielded any result’’, stating that ‘’Clients of the road haulage operators, particular, Freight Forwarders, are still suffering the spurious charges’ ‘begging for ministerial intervention.
The NCMDLCA, Tin Island Chapter, Secretary General, was said to have also made Mustapha the, the Secretary to the government, to understand in the Petition that Bello ‘’coordinated and sustained the campaign which gave the President the impression that he has a firm control of the nation’s maritime sector, and thus , gave the NSC, the added responsibility, as the Transport sector economic regulator. An aggrieved Nwosu said Bello and his agency had ’’performed dismally in that position’’.
He alluded to the fact that the President had refused to sign the proposed National Transport Commission, NTC, bill, sponsored by the Council and which was said to have been passed by the National Assembly, into Law since 2018, because some sections of the bill had contained Safety Regulations that duplicated the function of other existing agencies in the ministry of Transportation .
Nwosu had concluded in the petition sent Mustapha, the Secretary to the government that Bello had made matters worse for stakeholders as he supported Hajia Bala Usman, Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, to divert ships from the Lagos ports to the south eastern ports. He disclosed that Bello had supported Hajia Usman to do so because he has ’’failed to resolve the multifaceted problems facing shippers and its other cargo interests at the Lagos ports’’.
According to him: the diversion of the ocean going vessels from the Lagos ports to the south eastern ports had come with its attendant increment in the ’’operational expenses already borne by importers with their agents, and which in turn are passed on to Consumers’’.
The NAGAFF, Tin can island Chapter Executive Council member , had also accused Bello led NSC, of conniving with shipping Companies and terminal operators acting out nefariously in their respective Organisations and under the auspices of trade Associations to gang up to ’ promote their selfish interests in unrelentlessly fleecing and seeking to impoverish importers, exporters and agents’’.
Nwosu noted that if Bello had been alive to his duties, he should have concerned himself with the vexatious issue of the shipping companies reneging on refunding on deposits on empty Containers as soon it was returned by the importer.
‘’We have been suffering non-refunds of the sums in its entirety or partial refunds after duly returning the empty Containers to the shipping companies. This may have informed why the leadership of the NAGAFF, Tin Island Chapter, have stepped up their Campaign to force Bello out from NSC.
He gave credit to Bello, the NSC boss, in the areas of ‘’summoning incessant stakeholders’ meetings , which deliberations and conclusions end up never being implemented’’.
Efforts to speak to speak to the NSC, helmsman proved abortive because of the OVID 19restrictions of movement in Lagos state by the government.
But whether Mustapha, the Secretary to the Federal government would act on the petition of the Council to take up the matter with the President to facilitate the removal of the Lawyer from NSC remain to be seen. This is because he has power brokers that are behind him including Rotimi Amaechi, the minister of Transportation.