NWOLISA ACCUSES TERMINAL OPERATORS OF HIGH-HANDEDNESS
…As Farinto Backs Increment In Charges
By Mcanthony Onuoha
The recent increase in charges by terminal operators has been vehemently criticised by some maritime practitioners.
One of those who expressed dissatisfaction over the purported 650% increase is the National President of Association of Nigerian Customs Brokers – ANCB and Convener, Concerned Nigerian Registered Freight Forwarders – CNRFF, Dr. Basil Chudi Nwolisa.
In a statement he personally signed and made available to The Prestige Magazine, Nwolisa accused terminal operators of always wanting to frustrate freight forwarders by emasculating their business and stifling their means of livelihoods for corporate gains.
He decried the purported increase in charges alleging that the decision was taken behind industry stakeholders and without the consent of the Joint National Assembly Committees which is the Senate Committee on Marine Transport and the House of Representatives Committee on Ports, Harbours and Waterways, and the Management of Nigerian Shipper’s Council (NSC) as well. He fumed that terminal operators foisted the increment on freight forwarders and their importers at a time people were struggling to remain in business, describing the action as insensitive and unpatriotic.
According to Dr. Nwolisa, ” it has been proven that terminal operators foisted the increment on freight forwarders without the consent of the appropriate authorities. This speedy and unconstitutional hike in charges is the height of insensitivity and underscores an age long suspicion of conspiracy against freight forwarders by shipping companies and terminal operators. This people can not come out openly to dispute the obvious fact, they are complicit of continuous extortion and can not exonerate themselves from this truth.”
“The investigation we carried out clearly shows that the Joint National Assembly Committees and Nigerian Shipper’s Council are still discussing with terminal operators and are yet to reach any conclusion even as the NSC is still planning to engage stakeholders in a town hall meeting to discuss and find a way around the increment. But to our chagrin terminal operators even without the consent of the NSC, have already started collecting the new charges.”
“However, the National Assembly Joint Committees on their part said they are still discussing with terminal operators about the planned increase, and that they are shocked to hear that they have gone ahead with the decision even without their consent. Any way we look at it, it is crystal clear that these service providers took the law into their hands. The rates have not been approved by any of the aforementioned authorities.”
“If they make a slight increase in handling charges fine and good, but not in demurrage. As it stands presently, the ports lack infrastructure especially access roads, no functional equipment. Same outdated system of operation, physical contacts subsist instead of automation. The only time they can have the moral right to talk about increment is when their operational systems become fully automated, from rating to payment to shipping company release and terminal debit notes to Terminal Delivery Order(TDO). When they improve their system that people can go to their portals for transactions, then they will be in better position to talk about increment.”
” After doing all that, they also have to come all out to collaborate with the Lagos State Government in clearing the ports corridors of the gridlocks they deliberately create for corporate gains. Once they end this ugly situation, they can start talking about increment.”
“I quite agree that there is need for increment going by the present economic situation but their services are very poor. In Ghana for example, you can be in your house and access your debit note, pay and get your Terminal Delivery Order (TDO) online, but here, to get a truck to take your container to the scanning point is pretty difficult, no time frame, you are not sure of the exact number of days it will take you to clear your consignment, no time frame. They don’t work on Saturdays and Sundays but still collect demurrage for the work free days. Until they improve on their services they have no moral right to talk of increment.”
” Again, the Lagos State Government and the Ministry of Transportation are part of the problems we are facing, they allow trucks and articulated vehicles to park along ports access roads after collecting money from them. And one has to ask, why are shipping companies collecting money from importers on already exited containers? Their only crime is that they can not access the terminals in real time due to gridlocks, this is criminal, we know the game they are playing. They have no moral right to increase both demurrage and terminal charges”, Nwolisa submitted.
Meanwhile, Former Acting National President of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents- ANLCA, Dr. Kayode Collins Farinto, has said that the rising cost of diesel, declining value of the naira and high rate of inflation among other factors, justify the need for upward review of shipping and terminal charges.
According to Farinto, “we all know that the indices of working in the port now are not as it used to be and things have changed. The terminal operators too are Nigerians and if we juxtapose what is happening vis-a-vis the fact that there has been an increment in prices of fuel; and the dollar has risen, so there has to be a rise in their charges too. ”
” We are in an era where you cannot predict the dollar and these people are rendering services, so it becomes inevitable for them to increase. Nobody should be criticized for that. But l want to commend them because they are even coming late with the increase in charges. l know that if it were to be the old operators, they would have increased the charges before now. they took their time before they did it and there is nothing anyone can do about it”. He said.
Continuing, Farinto blamed the hardships faced by importers and their agents on Government’s failure to repair the ports access roads.
According to him, “Government has ab-initio failed in their responsibility to even provide the services they ought to provide. What are these services? It is in the concession agreement that the government will provide electricity 24/7 but this has not been made available. It is still the same terminal operators that are providing electricity, so the government must go back and do that. Secondly, the government must put in place all the roads that are dilapidated, particularly the access roads to the seaport. ”
In one of the interviews he granted the Prestige Blended Magazine Online recently, Dr. Basil Nwolisa had described Shipping companies and terminal operators as a set of business people who don’t care about others, saying that their policies in Nigeria could not be implemented anywhere in the world, not even in Africa, not in any 4th world country if at all there was any country of such status. He stated that it was only in this country that shipping companies pressed the necks of clients to put them out of business and no one questioned them as there seemed to be no rules and regulations for the game.