Worried by the double handling of customs assessments of shippers’ cargo by the operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and other matters connected thereto, the Shippers’ Association Lagos State (SALS) has said that it is mobilising to send Intervention Team into the ports to protect her members.
The President of the association, Rev. Dr. Jonathan Nicol who made this disclosure in a statement in Lagos noted that the Intervention Team was long overdue as the association would no longer condone a situation where any of the importers or shipper should be the target by illegal compliance team when the Port Economic Regulators were still in existence.
Nicol who frowned at the rate different freight forwarding associations in the industry were establishing compliance teams observed that the compliance teams of the freight forwarding associations should have focused their compliance campaign to the unbridled actions of the Nigeria Customs Service double handling of customs assessments of shippers’ cargo.
According to him, “Even after clearance, 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 and along the Oshodi-Apapa 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 and seize their vehicles leaving the occupants stranded. The vehicles are then 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 groups of people targeted by the federal government agencies for extreme punishment. There is no consignment cleared in all the ports without parting with some sort of under table payment. Industries are no exception. Warehouses are being shut for no just cause. Duty of 5% on raw materials runs into 15 to 20% during clearing processes as a result of overreaching 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 shippers to be a target by illegal compliance team when the Port Economic Regulators are still in existence.”
He pointed out that all freight forwarders were expected to team up with the association’s intervention team to checkmate the excesses of government agencies adding that “it is cheering news to hear that the Presidential Task Force Team is disbanded.”
“It was riddled with allegations of massive corruption. Money paid by owners of cargo. Much as we appreciate the effort of our freight forwarders, they have done great jobs in the past, 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”, he added.
While recalling how the association battled the Peak Period Surcharge of 400% increase, the suspension which he said some shipping lines complied while some did not, he disclosed that “we have received a press notification from CMA CGM 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 is to jettison the new unexpected fee on Nigeria cargo as imports do not have such issues.
“Our export cargoes 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”, he further posited.
Photo: President, Shippers’ Association Lagos State, Rev. Dr. Jonathan Nicol.
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