By Rev. Jonathan Nicol
The 100% Compliance Team of Freight Forwarders Associations should have focused their compliance campaign to the unbridled actions of the activities of the Nigeria Customs Service double handling of Customs Assessments of Shippers cargo.
Even after clearance, the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) an arm of Customs Service, has stationed themselves on our bridges and roads, especially immediately after Area B Police Station, and on top of just repaired Marine Beach Bridge, the Oshodi Expressway, to arrest and detain already released cargo.
Their activities cut across to other States of the Federation. They arrest already- cleared and registered vehicles on the highways with families travelling to their villages. They stop them, seize their vehicles, leaving the occupants stranded. The vehicles are driven to the FOU and sold within 72 hours after seizure. They always claim that the correct duty was not paid.
A vehicle that has been registered with the Coat of Arms of the Federal Government has no meaning to the field officers. It used to be honoured in those days!
In fact, Importers and Shippers are a group of people targeted by the Federal Government Agencies for extreme punishment. There is no consignment cleared in all the ports without parting with some sought of under table payment. Industries are no exception. Warehouses are being shut for no just cause. Duty of 5% on raw materials run into 15 to 20% during clearing processes as a result of over reaching of the Valuation Officers queries.
They raise a Demand Notice and force you to accept it for additional payment of duty without contesting such. What a way to amass wealth within the Customs Service. The Shippers Association is very concerned now and we are mobilising to send Intervention Team into the Ports to protect our members. We do not want any of the Importers or Shipper to be a target by illegal compliant Team when the Port Economic Regulators are still in existence.
All freight forwarders are expected to team up with our Intervention Team to checkmate excesses of government agencies. It is a cheery news to hear that the Presidential Task Force Team is disbanded. It was riddled with allegations of massive corruption. Monies paid by owners of cargo. Much as we appreciate the effort of our Freight Forwarders, they have done great jobs in the past. But, we do not subscribe to further harassment from our own freight forwarding outfits, with the exception of the approved Economic Port Regulators.
No freight forwarder is empowered by law to take regulatory role. Therefore, we want all the freight forwarding associations to join the shippers to collaborate and solve the port problems one by one. NAGAFF, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF MANAGING DIRECTORS, ANCLA and other respected Associations. We adore you all.
The Federal Ministry of Transportation, the Nigerian Shippers Council, The Council of Regulations of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria and the Nigerian Ports Authority, should take note.
Recently, we battled the “Peak Period Surcharge of 400% increase. Some Shipping Lines complied, some did not. We have received a press notification from CMA CDMA that $180 or €150 will be charged on Nigeria cargo for “Empty Equipment Imbalance Fee.”
The Nigerian Shippers Council has informed us that they will stop demurrages from the Shipping Lines and Terminal Operators because of the Intractable Apapa traffic that has made cargo to be delivered in peace-meal to the Shipping Lines. This new rate is no exception. We all must pay the price for the problems that we collectively created. Our Appeal to CMA CGM to jettison the new unexpected fee on Nigeria cargo as Imports do not have such issues.
Our export cargo are being snubbed and this is not good, especially at this time of the second wave of the Pandemic.
Shippers who have the inflated Peak Season Surcharge should please send their Bill Lading to us. Shippers Association Lagos State will continue to seek resolutions to Port related issues with Service Providers through dialogues.
We therefore appeal to all major stakeholders to fashion a way to protect the Commonwealth of Shippers who provide the platform for trade. The “Empty Equipment Imbalance fee.”
We will get the Nigerian Shippers Council to wade into this as it relates to charges if approval has been obtained before implementation. These are the problems we should collectively solve.
Rev. Jonathan Nicol is the President, Shippers Association of Lagos State.