The Sea Empowerment and Research Centre has petitioned the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Barr. Hassan Bello complaining of how a shipping company, Grimaldi Agency Nigeria Limited converted the sum of two hundred and twelve thousand, five hundred Naira (N212, 500.00) deposited into its account in two separate payments as container deposit by Royal Light Global Logistics Limited and issued another two hundred and fourteen thousand, eight hundred and forty five Naira (N214, 845.00) to be paid on the same container claiming that the empty container was delayed before returning.
The Director General of the centre, Mr. Francis Uchechukwu Aniezechukwu who signed the petition recalled that the four hundred and seventeen thousand, five hundred Naira (N417,500,00) that Grimladi Agency issued to Royal light logistics represented the demurrage charges for 1×20 feet container delivered to Vessorg International Limited which had been returned.
Aniezechukwu noted that at the point of delivery, Vessorg International Business Limited, deposited into Grimaldi account the sum of One hundred thousand Naira (N100,000.00) representing the container deposit to be refunded when the container is returned.
He added that at the point of delivery, Vessorg International Business Limited also deposited into Grimaldi Agency Nigeria Limited account the sum of One hundred and twelve thousand five hundred naira (N112, 500.00) representing provisional excess payment to be refunded when the container is returned.
“Surprisingly, when the container was returned, Grimaldi Agency Nigeria ltd. converted the total sum 212,500.00 (Two hundred and twelve thousand five hundred naira), issued an extra bill of 214,845,00 ( two hundred and fourteen thousand eight hundred and forty five naira ) to be paid on the same container claiming that the empty container was delayed before returning.
“Equally surprising is that Grimaldi Agency Nigeria Ltd insisted that Royal Light Global Logistics will pay this 214,845,00 claiming that as the agent in the job they are liable to pay and have gone ahead to confiscate all containers refund deposits of various clients of Royal light logistics with them.
“Our primary investigation revealed that this is a norm with Grimaldi Agency Nig. Ltd. and an illegal source of accumulating funds for the organization, extortion from clearing agents and importers thereby increasing the already high cost of doing business in Nigeria and frustrating government order on ease of doing business. Documented evidence abounds.
“It will interest you that we as a team scheduled and attended a meeting with Grimaldi Agency Nigeria Ltd on the 11th of April, 2019 in attendance were Chioma Kelechi Ahanonu (General Manager Commercial), Appeal, Calista and all Grimaldi Agency Nig. Ltd. staff.
“The various issues of firstly holding the agency liable for their wrongly presumed debt of the importer against the law of agency and principal, secondly, the withholding of various other importers refund not connected with the transaction and finally the fraudulent demurrage charges on empty containers outside their terminal were discussed.
“On each of the cases, the General Manager Commercial, Chioma Kelechi Ahanonu said blatantly that this is the procedure in Grimaldi Agency Nigeria Ltd and that we can go to court and that Grimaldi have paid lawyers in advance to handle these cases”, he said.
He therefore appealed to the NSC boss to; clarify the legality of Nigeria shipping companies holding agencies liable for container deposits and other defaults of consignees, clarify which statute or enactment brought about the collection of container deposit in Nigeria by shipping companies and clarify the legality of this charge by shipping companies and the source of this law.
He continued,” Sir it is unimaginable that under the watch of Shippers’ Council such monumental fraud and gross lawlessness are perpetuated by the shipping companies even when you have personally instructed the shipping companies in Nigeria to stop container deposit collection.
“It is most painful that whereas our President, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR spends days outside this country soliciting for foreign investment, these companies contribute immensely to the high cost of doing business in Nigeria.
“We are confident in your ability to move fast and stem this tide, prosecute perpetuators and compel damages to be paid to importers and agents that are affected.
“We will have no option if this matter is not expedited than to intimate the Presidency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the International Shippers’ Council on this development”.
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