Maritime: NAGAFF blames inability to enforce government directives on lack of collaboration between NPA, Shippers’ Council


…Hails NSC, CRFFN for providing palliatives for freight forwarders, port users

The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has blamed the inability to enforce government directives in the nation’s maritime industry on the lack of collaboration between the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC).

The National President of NAGAFF, Chief Increase Uche who stated this in a telephone interview with our correspondent in Lagos on Wednesday noted that the directive Issued by the NPA directing the terminal operators to suspend the collection of storage fee otherwise known as demurrage for 21 days which was not obeyed was trying to open up the gap between the two agencies of the government that there is need for them to synergize instead of working at cross purposes.

Uche said, “Like the Shippers’ Council tried to visit the ports, that was last week Tuesday to ascertain the level of operation at the ports, two days after, NPA went on its own visit too, meaning that it is not the issue of competition but it is rivalry. We are having issue of rivalry which does not encourage the healthy growth of the industry. There should be collaboration and we have been looking at that to be a major factor that has been slowing down the progress of the industry.

“Now, Shippers’ Council on their own has been on ground trying to render assistance to all the port users including COBALT, they are among those being ferried from their respective point of origin to the ports. Shippers’ Council has been trying their best with CRFFN and we too being on ground coordinating our members to ensure that the preventive measures put in place against the spread of Covid-19 are adhered to. We have been trying to carry out all this in order for the presidential directive to achieve its purpose.

“But where the real problem now lies is that if the agencies of the government are not coordinated, if they are working at cross purposes to each other, it will be difficult for other port users to operate without hindrances. So, the situation on ground calls for collaboration. One fact remains that the Nigerian Ports Authority, with the way things are going, we don’t see any healthy partnership coming into play, this superiority tussle continued in the industry. So, our concern as relevant stakeholders is that we feel it is timely for some of us who are acquainted with the development in the industry to start making our observation known to the authorities particularly during this period of lockdown.

“But before now, what you see playing out has been an age long overlapping issues meaning that if these areas are not settled, if the SGF fails to intervene at this very stage, some of the directives given by the federal government might not see the light of the day. But beyond all these things we are discussing here, we are looking at the low hanging fruits. Initially, we know that the agencies of government at the ports are not collaborating with each other, that collaboration that has been lacking is still compounding issues of enforcing government directives. For them not to speak with one voice means that there will be no developmental project in the industry that can ever grow.”

Speaking on palliatives provided for the port users by the agencies of government in order to ensure that the presidential directive on operation of the Lagos seaports during the lockdown of Lagos, Ogun and FCT was achieved, the NAGAFF President appreciated the Shippers’ Council and the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) for providing palliatives for freight forwarders and port users to cushion the effect of the lockdown on them and to ensure the smooth running of the ports in accordance with presidential directive.

He noted that they started first by convincing the government to know that the freight forwarders are providing essential services adding that “if that is the case and the port is operational under order 42, then there shall be a balance which means we should make provision and allow the freight forwarders to come forward to ensure that the port, as it is remaining operational, is also moving out cargo at a reasonable speed in order not to create a situation where the current congestion expands to an alarming rate.

“In doing that, Shippers’ Council collaborated with CRFFN, provided buses, these buses started operation since last Tuesday covering all the corridors that links to the ports; from Ajah, Lekki down to the port, a bus was assigned, Ikorodu, there was a bus assigned that will bring in freight forwarders and other port users to the port, from Ogba, Ikeja, Maryland to the port, a bus was also assigned, Sango-Ota, Ipaja, a bus was assigned, then Ikotun, Ejigbo, they assigned a bus, Badagry, Trade Fair to the port,  a bus was assigned and it has been helping freight forwarders to come forward and they are happy because they want to avoid situations that will lead to unlimited liability on their own side having been given the opportunity and also a palliative created for them to be able to go the port unhindered.

“Shippers’ Council also in collaboration with CRFFN has been working assiduously on that even on Saturday, I was with the Shippers ’Council Executive Secretary, we have been communicating. CRFFN also wrote a letter through NPA for them to assign Police and alert Police to know that this movement should not be hindered. It is also in consonance with the federal government directive that the port should be operational. While the letter written has not received any response, the Police went ahead to be arresting our members. Up till Sunday, we were still bailing our members. So, these are the issues that really emanated from some of the modalities put in place”, he said.

While admitting that the banks had been the problem currently since they refused to open for business, he however noted that they had been on them too adding that “Shippers’ Council and CRFFN are talking to their Directors, Zonal Managers that they should allow transactions to go on but it appears that the banks also have instruction from the CBN on the way they should operate under this circumstance, there shouldn’t be cash releases, they shouldn’t issue Drafts and that every other thing should be electronically done in order not to encourage interface or interaction of persons.”

“But these banks, none of them opened except skeletally because as at Thursday and Friday last week, it was only one Zenith Bank at Warehouse Road that was working. So, other bank branches within Apapa were finding it very difficult to go into full operation. So, that also created some problem but I learnt that some of them are working but some are not fully operational”, he added.

Asked why the banks should defy the directives by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) for them to operate in full capacity in order to provide services to the port users, he said, “The SGF, we learnt of his instruction but nobody can actually lay hands on the hard copy of the directive but the SGF from what I read in some of the online publications has given a directive that every other parties in the logistics chain will seem to be operational in order not to slow down the cargo flow. So, that has been the issue.”

Photo: NAGAFF National President, Chief Increase Uche.

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