…As Agents Expressed Corporation with Terminal Over Charges
By DAPO OLAWUNI
Apparently in compliance with the provisions of the International Ships and Ports Security Facility Code (ISPS) the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has evacuated secretariat structures mounted around the PTML Terminal by various freight forwarding associations.
At a stakeholders meeting held at PTML Terminal on Wednesday, the various associations namely; Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) called on the NPA to provide a permanent space for the associations to erect their secretariat close to the port.
The associations also reasoned with the PTML Terminal management over the cost of doing business, saying that despite the increment in electricity tariff, fuel pump prices, and poor infrastructures, the terminal operator have not for once increased its charges for several years until now.
The stakeholders meeting was attended by various port stakeholders including the PTML Terminal Management, Department of State Security (DSS) Port Police, NPA and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) among others.
Speaking at the meeting, Chairman of ANLCA at PTML Chapter, Elder Oluwole Obey said the NPA has rendered the various associations homeless without providing an alternative space for them to spot their secretariat and meeting points.
According to him, it was wrong for NPA to hide under the ISPS Code for now because, Nigerian ports cargo clearance system is not yet automated for freight forwarders to clear cargoes from the confines of their homes and offices.
“NPA has said because of ISPS Code we cannot be around the port.
Without us, the shipping companies, customs cannot make money, if you are now sending us out of the port how would you make that money? And the lack of automation of the Nigerian Port system does not allow us the opportunity to work within the confines of our homes or offices for now”
Mr Iyioha Davidson, a member of NAGAFF 100% Compliant Team argued that the ISPS Code does not provide that authorised persons should not access the port, adding that NPA is not interpreting the code properly.
“Authorised freight forwarders have the right to be at the port, I cannot be at home and take delivery of my consignment. If I am here and the customs are yet to resume work, where would I stay?”
Also speaking, Chief Sunny Ugoji, an executive of ANLCA PTML Chapter, urged the NPA to adopt the model being used at the Lagos airport whereby all associations were alloted a space to build their secretariat close to their operational areas.
He said this is necessary for easy interaction with the authorities and to protect members.
He lamented that “Where we are right now is not befitting for us, we are all Directors of various companies, we are not touts, we know how much we make for the Federal Government every year, we pay our tax and we still renew our licenses every year, we dont deserve to be treated this way”
Chairman of NCMDLCA at PTML, Mr Abayomi Samuel argued that when it comes to issue of port security and the ISPS Code, freight forwarders are not a threat to the port.
“So, I don’t understand why we should beg to be accommodated inside the port. As we speak now, the Labour Union are in the port, they didn’t beg to be accommodated, they created a place for them inside the port”
“The NPA knows that we exist, they even gave us a letter permitting us to occupy the space we were using. There has been no single case where agents have been accused of fermenting trouble at the port, we are helping the economy of Nigeria and we cannot be treated as trash” he stressed
Responding, Chief Security Officer (CSO) of PTML Terminal, Mr Oscar Chijioke cautioned the agents to thread with caution when engaging with NPA on the ISPS Code because the Code has specified the way the ports should function.
He noted that the NPA was concerned about the nuisance crowd they see regularly arround the PTML port area.
According to him, there are lots of people sleeping inside the port, mostly inside the mosques built close to the port. He said this is a big security risk because while the clearing agents are working by day, the squatters are sleeping, and they come active at night.
He also lamented the prevalence of diesel hawkers, activities of food vendors around the port, as well as tank farms, saying that these are time bombs waiting to explode
“We all have joint responsibility to protect the lives and properties of everyone at the port”
“There is a need for proper profiling of persons gaining access into the port environment, especially through the first gate, second gate and Abuja gate of Tin Can Island Port. Until this is done, it may be difficult to identify the real freight forwarders from the touts gaining access to the port area”
“If these three access gates around the port are properly monitored by NPA, the crowd at the port would dissappear naturally” he said
Chijioke said the PTML Terminal was also forced to introduce access control cards and turnstile gates in order to control the crowd accessing its facility.
Meanwhile, the various freight forwarding associations have agreed that the recent increase in handling charges by the terminal operator was long overdue.
They however pleaded for reduction in the percentages, even as they appointed two representatives each from the various groups as a committee, to reason with the Terminal management.
Chairman of the ANLCA PTML Chapter, Elder Oluwole Obey assured that a final resolution would be made public on Friday.
“Whatever we do here, we are brothers and one family, we thank PTML for giving us a place where we can still be standing today when NPA evicted us”
“Today’s meeting is to see how the synergy between us, the shipping company can be stronger”
“We have a good rapport with PTML Terminal and the customs, the business environment around the port is friendly, so, people should have nothing to fear about the increased charges, we are not touts here, we are professionals”
Vice Chairman of ANLCA, Chief Charles Nwaneri assured that the freight forwarders are ready to corporate with PTML Terminal. He said some customs formations have increased their VAT and yet freight forwarders have been complying with them.
“Everybody knows what is obtainable in Nigeria today, except we want to start deceiving ourselves, formerly I used to give my wife N5,000 to go to the market, but today, N20,000 is not even enough.
The shipping company have their own policy and we have our own, we cannot tell them not to increase anything, we know they are providing these facilities.
“We however want to beg them to reduce the percentages of the charges a little so that business can go on”
Also speaking, Chief Sunny Ugoji reasoned that “Everything in the country has increased, operational costs have increased including electricity bills, government is still discussing on how to increase fuel price, we equally understand what the terminal operators are facing, but we need to seat on a round table” he said