By DAPO OLAWUNI
Following the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) decision to begin implementation of its port access control at the Tin Can Island Port on Tuesday, stakeholders have said that the exercise will fail, even as they described the action as failure of various freight forwarding associations.
The NPA had shut out port users who do not have its port pass from accessing the port to carry out legitimate business, a development that nearly degenerated into crisis on Tuesday.
Speaking with DAILY TREND NEWS, a frontline operator and former Chairman of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) at Lagos Airport, Dr Segun Alade Musa said the action of NPA is an indication of failure of associations in the maritime industry.
He argued that NPA has no reason to lock critical stakeholders out of the port, especially if they have their associations’ Identification cards.
Dr. Musa said it was unfortunately that most of the associations were busy playing sycophants roles for the government agencies at the detriment of their members and their businesses.
“You need to understand how associations due to greediness and selfishness has killed this industry. Already the customs has no respect for them again and now the NPA. Let us x-ray all the associations to know if their conducts and relationships are meant to strengthen the industry and I’m sure with your closeness to all of them you would agree with that no is the answer”
“The way we usually manage the affairs of associations and earn respect for associations has changed most of the leadership are not ready for selfless service again but what they want eat immediately and that’s how they sold associations to customs and other agencies”
The NAGAFF Chieftain described the development as another litmus test to check the relevance of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) as the umbrella body of the freight forwarders, and to determine if the leadership knows what their roles are in protecting the interests of stakeholders.
“When Boarders were closed Shippers Council called the associations to join them in solidarity with customs and now that the port is locked the associations too should call the customs and shippers Council for solidarity to check how relevance they are to those agencies”
“I’m sure customs would be the first to support NPA and call the freight forwarders all sort of bad names followed by the shippers Council using them as an instrument for selfish interest”
“The NPA decision is absolutely wrong and I totally condemned it”
Speaking in the same vein, former president of Nigerian Association of Air Freight Forwarders and Cargo Consolidators (NAFFAC) Chief Chukwuka Ani Agubamah argued that since the NPA has concessioned the port terminals, terminal operators, and not NPA should be allowed to implement the access control.
Agubamah stressed that NPA is now a landlord of the port, and that a landlord cannot hinder customers who do business with it’s tenants.
In a chat with our correspondent he queried “Does your landlord stand at Gate to register and monitor persons coming to do business in your rented shop? Should he?
“NPA is the landlord of the port with powers to do cargo handling, register cargo agents and so on.NPA now concessions its powers of handling and Cargo delivery but still wants to register those involved in handling and Cargo delivery”
“NPA cannot eat its cake and still see it on her plate. Concessionaires have consequently received by Concession contracts the powers to control and man access to their locations. One very good scenario is PTML terminal” he said
Also speaking, a chieftain of International Freight Forwarders Association (IFFA) at Kirikiri Liter Terminal (KLT) Mr Jude Chukwuka said the exercise would not work.
He urged the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) to intervene on the issuance of the port pass and ensure that freight forwarders are not disturbed from doing their legitimate trade at the port.
DAILY TREND NEWS gathered that the NPA had informed terminal operators, government agencies and labour of its intention to commence implementation port pass and strict access control.
The authority allegedly did not inform the license customs agents and freight forwarders who only woke up to the port by 8am to find stern looking NPA security officers, assisted by the Nigerian Police, mounting the newly built access gate built recently by NPA.
Apart from freight forwarders, terminal operators and their dockworkers were also trapped outside the port. Some of the dockworkers were rough handled.
Speaking with our correspondent, one of the licensed customs agents, Mr Emmanuel Onyeme said
“We came into the port at 8am and found out that the PSO (Port Security Officer) Mr Akindele Olajide has led his team to shut down the newly built access gate by Nigerian Port Authority, both terminal operators, customs brokers and even government agencies do not have access of getting into the port”
He explained that there was a letter written to the terminal operators earlier that the exercise was going to commence and that they should start bussing in and outThey agreed that terminal operators should use their busses to pick their staff and drop them at work.
“It was wrong, if you notify the terminal operators that this is an assignment you intend carrying out, why didn’t you write the custom brokers too? They didn’t notify us”
“Ironically, we saw a man taking his bath openly inside the port, we had to call the attention of NPA officials to this, they are denying people who have things to do inside the port access, but how did that man gain access”
“In terms of security, we are not against the action of NPA, but they are supposed to carry all stakeholders along” Onyeme said
One of the agents, Deacon Inuolajin Joseph said “I had a target of generating a debit note and that was why I came early into the port, but only ended up generating the debit note around 4pm today”
“We don’t know what would happen tomorrow now”
He lamented that to get the NPA port pass is very difficult, he said that many port users have written letters to get it but they are still waiting up till now.
Also speaking with our correspondent, another agent who identified himself as Mr Stanley Okechukwu wondered why NPA would be fighting to implement port pass in the month of November, knowing fully well that the year is almost over.
He said “We are in the peak period when a lot of activities that has to so with goods importation has increased”
“Apart from that, the port is expiring in December, so why carry out the action now”