…As Freight Forwarders issue 21-day Strike Notice
Freight Forwarders operating at Nigerian ports have alleged that the Presidential Task Team deployed by President Muhammadu Buhari to ease traffic gridlock in Apapa is now demanding N200,000 from each truck before they can gain access to pick cargoes from the port.
The task team is headed by a former Commissioner for Transportation in Lagos State, Mr. Kayode Opeifa.
Right now, the freight forwarders are agitated and they are spoiling for a war with the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA) because failure of its manual call-up system for trucks have the opportunity for extortion of truckers.
The freight forwarders , who congregated under a common platform, observed that the collapse of the call-up system introduced by the NPA to sanitise and streamline truck access to the port, has thrown up huge operational challenges that are threatening to muzzle them out of business.
According to Alhaji Tanko Ibrahim, the Vice-President , Western Zone of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), who rally together all the freight forwarders in other sister associations, the terminals operators, shipping companies and the presidential task team on Apapa traffic gridlock have all cashed in on the chaos that results from the failed call-up system to subject freight forwarders to unwarranted extortion and harassment.
Alhaji Ibrahim disclosed that as a result of these challenges, the concerned freight forwarders have written to the NPA authority to convene a meeting of relevant stakeholders to address the problems.
“The NPA call-up system has collapsed due to the failure of the shipping companies to adhere to the NPA directive to have holding bays.
“Also, the terminal operators, especially the APMT which takes in the highest numbers of trucks, lacks adequate cargo handling equipment which made trucks cleared to access the terminal get stranded at the gate, thereby causing long queues on the access roads” Ibrahim declared.
He said this development has now created traffic nightmare on the port access roads which has thrown up lots of challenges.
“As results of this, the Presidential task team has cashed in on the situation to subject truckers to mindless extortion.
“They now demand the sum of N200,000 per truck before they are given access into the port.They humiliate, molest and harass truck drivers in the course of perpetrating this illegality.
“Consequently, these truckers build in these unreceipted charges to the cost of evacuating our containers out of the ports.
“For instance, to transport a 40 ft container from Apapa to ASPANDA on Badagry road, they charge N700,000 instead of initial N50,000-N80,000 cost.”
He further disclosed that as a result of the gridlock, the shipping companies slam on them huge and unwarranted demurrage charges, while their containers deposits are usually mutilated or returned .
In addition, the freight forwarders complained that their Terminal Delivery Order( TDO) issued by the the shipping companies usually get expired as truck drivers are perpetually entangled in the traffic mayhem.
But the Shipping companies would insist on revalidation of the TDO at a cost.
“These operational challenges thrown up by the gridlock have placed additional financial burden on the freight forwarders and their principals due to no fault of theirs.
“So last week, the concerned freight forwarders convened a meeting where we invited all the relevant stakeholders including the NPA, Shippers’Council, Shipping Companies , Terminal operators , NARTO, AMATO, Maritime Police and all the freight forwarding associations of ANLCA, AREFF, Council of Managing Directors and others.
“But to our greatest surprise and annoyance, while others stakeholders honoured the invitation, the shipping companies and terminal operators, who are the major culprits of these illegalities, stayed away.
“So we resolved to ask the NPA management to convene another meeting where all the stakeholders, including the recalcitrant shipping companies and terminal operators, would be compelled to attend.
“This is because the NPA, as the regulatory agency, will have enough clout to compel them to attend” Tanko Ibrahim declared.
Consequently , in a letter addressed to the Executive Director, Marine and Operations of the NPA, dated November 28th, 2019 and signed by Tanko Ibrahim on behalf of concerned freight forwarders, the group asked the agency to, as a matter of urgency, convene an urgent summit of all the stakeholders in the industry to address the identified operational challenges.
In the letter, which receipt was acknowledged by the NPA on November 29th, 2019, the group warned that the NPA should convene this meeting “to forestall further restiveness before it snow balls into an unmanageable crisis”
“We are therefore giving the NPA a 21-day ultimatum from the day they received the letter, to convene this crucial summit or be prepared to face massive strike action by the freight forwarders” Tanko Ibrahim declared.
Meanwhile, the Vice-Chairman of the Presidential task team on Apapa traffic, Kayode Opeifa,has dismissed the allegation of extortion against the task team as baseless and an attempt to blackmail the team.
“It is corruption fighting back” he declared.
He said it is pure mischief and uncharitable to ascribe access clearance for trucks to enter the terminals to the task team.
“That is not our responsibility. It is the responsibility of the NPA to issue call up notice to the truckers”‘ Opeifa observed.
He said the claims by the freight forwarders that truckers pay N200,000 as bribe to enter the port is blatant lie and an attend to justify the huge charges the truckers put on their services.
“Who do they give the money to? It is a trump up allegation by the freight forwarders to extort their principals” Opeifa noted.