Following calls by leadership of some freight forwarding association for the seaports to be totally shut to avoid exposing their members to the dangers of contracting the Coronavirus disease otherwise known as Covid-19, the former Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Engr. Emmanuel Ilori has said that it will amount to a disservice to the nation if they are not clearing the goods that are essential to run the economy.
Ilori who made this assertion an interview with our correspondent in Lagos recently, stated that since the Ports Authority would not close the ports, the press should challenge them (freight forwarders) if they decide not to clear goods at the ports, reminding them of the implication of their action which he said amounts to closing down the economy.
His words, “If freight forwarders decide to do that, that is a disservice to the nation, if they are not clearing the goods that are essential to run the economy, then, it is a disservice to the nation. Ports Authority will not close the ports, ANLCA is a body of clearing agents just like NAGAFF, they are not NPA staff, if they decide to do that, then you press should go to them and challenge them that they are trying to close down the economy. Why should they refrain from clearing goods? Have they told them as essential goods, they should not clear?
“Well, the appropriate agencies have given directives on what to do in this circumstance. All it takes is to comply with government directives. Government has given directives on what to do and it is the case of them complying with government directives, at the end of the day, we are all accountable to the government and the government has our best interest at heart. So, if they close the ports, then, are they closing the nation? No!
“There is no reason the ports should shut down, it is an essential service to the nation and the government has said that essential services would continue to run. So, why are they not running the essential services? Are we going to put the Police out of the road? Are we going to say that there is no going to be electricity? Are we going to say that water should not run? Are we going to say that doctors and nurses should not work? These are essential services that we need to keep going. If it is an essential service, then, it should run.”
He however observed that the concern of the freight forwarders should be on how to put control measures in place to checkmate the crowd of people who have nothing to do at the port from accessing the ports at this period.
According to him, “That is what we should be talking about; they have told us they don’t need crowd, why do you need the crowd to be there in the first instance? There are many people who are in the ports who do not need to be there. They need to control the way they do their business so that it is not going to jeopardize their health after all the banks have harmonized their operation and we are not going to say they will not get money from the bank but you have a way of controlling crowd in the bank. Then the ANLCA, the NAGAFF, they need to control their members so that we can continue to run to provide essential services to the nation.”
While informing that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) did not shut down their offices completely as people erroneously believed, he added that “it is absolutely impossible because even though we are going through this coronavirus problem, the economy has not been shut down.
He continued, “The ports form part of the essential services. I believe what NPA is saying and you need to further verify with NPA is non-essential services that have been shut down within their organization and that is commendable. At the same time, they will continue to focus on the essential services that will keep the economy up and running. Don’t forget, even if we lock down, are we not going to eat? Are we not going to continue to function? Are we going to close the whole country down? No!
“If the part of the office they closed down is not contributing anything to the essential services, yes, quite rightly but then I believe that they have said the essential services have not been closed down.”
Photo: Former spokesman of NISA, Engr. Emmanuel Ilori.
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