Coronavirus: NPA join The League of Donor Agencies To Government To Accommodate Victims As Management Stop Demurrage collection By Terminal Operators For 21 days

By Suleiman Umaru

The Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, aappear to have joined the league of the United Bank for Africa, UBA, Access , Zenith, Gurantee Trust Bank, popular GTB, Dangote Group and  the BUA  Group, among others to heed the call of the government to support the control of the dreaded disease, Coronavirus, from further spread in the country.

The agency donation may have taken time to come to come because Hajia Bala Usman, the Managing Director and her Management Team had been much involved over the last two months in implementing measures to prevent  theWuhan of Hebei Province of China  sickness: Cornavirus, from spreading into the country  through the seaports.

Note that the government, particular, officials of the Federal  ministry of Health and the Nigerian Centre For Disease Control, NCDC, feared that dreaded disease might spread into the country through the seaports because of the number of ships coming into the country’s ports from the Asian country of China and Europe.

This may have forced the government to bean its searchlight on the  Lagos ports of Apapa and Tincan Island including the Calabar, where one of the Terminal Operators run a Passenger vessel from the Central African country of Camerron to Nigeria   as high risk ports for the disease.

It was surprising why the country eight seaports between Lagos and the Niger Delta states of Delta , Rivers and Cross river had been  tightened to ensure  that suspected vessels did not berth at any of the

ports. Satisfied that port pilots and Medical personnel are fully on the alert to effectively monitor the movement of vessels in and out of the port to avoid the spread of the  sickness  through the seaport, Hajia Usman and his Management Team may have settled down to address the demand of the Presidential Committee to source for  Financial ,relief material  and facilities to accommodate the Coronavirus victims.  This may have informed why  the agency, which is the majority shareholder alongside other shareholders  of the Agura Hotels, had agreed  to donate the 130  bed   facility  to the NCDC, as an Isolation centre to accommodate the COVID 19 victims  at Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. “This is a social responsibility initiative  aimed at supporting  the efforts of the government  to contain  the spread of the  virus in Nigeria’’, Adams Jatto, an Engineer and the Maritime Landlord  General Manger ,Corporate and Strategic Communications had said.

Medical experts said the 130 well funished five –star Hotel facility had come at a right time because of the increasing number of Coronavirus cases  at the FCT, mostly , important personalities and  top government officials , who had never experienced  denial of basic  amenities in life.  They described the Agura Hotel facility as a home for the big man Corona victims  that would be accommodated  there, noting that it would facilitate their healing and quick discharge.

In a related development, Hajia Usman, and his Management  Team, who feels for the financial plight of the importers because of the global Coronavirus  diseases, were  said to have moved to cushion the effects on them  to avoid giving to  room for them to relocate back  to Benin Terminal , Cotonou and Bollore port in Benin Republic  as well as  other ports in the West African Sub-region to take delivery of their cargoes.

 Note that the  Border closure across the country with the neighbouring countries  of Benin, Niger and Cameroon,  and the   outbreak  of the sickness in Nigeria last February, appear to have forced  many Benin Republic based  importers  to relocate to Nigeria  seaports, particular, the Lagos Port Complex, LPC. That much was  said  by  Mrs. Olutu  Fumil ayo, the Port Manager.

The NPA Managing Director may not  want  the agency to lose any of these returnee Customers to Benin Republic, particular, because of  the alleged high cost of doing business at Nigerian ports as  she  was said to have directed  APM and other Terminal Operators  to suspend  all applicable  terminal  storage dues on Consignments, demurrage, for a period of 21 days . The directive which caught some of Terminal Operators unawares, according to Adams, the agency Spokesperson became effective on  Monday, March 23, 2020.

According to him, the” gesture  was in recognition  of the pressure  that the COVID-  19  pandemic  imposes on businesses, particular importation’’, stressing that  it is  the responsibility  of the agency  to cushion this burden on the Customers  as a way of attaining  the government objective  of the ease of doing business at the ports.

The Terminal Operators may have planned how they would rip-off the importers with outrageous Demurrage,  in this trying times.  But they have no cause to worry as the Hajia Usman and his Management Team have  some  palliatives for them  in order not to loosely completely within the 21 days that these policies would  be in operation.

“The Authority  recognises  the financial implication s of these policies  on the Terminal Operators  and will consider  a shift  in its operational charges to ameliorate the situation of the stakeholder’’. This should gladden the heart of the APM officials and Other Operators, who were  worried  that  the Hajia Usman  directive would affect their business and distort their  monthly revenue projections.

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