…Laments Shippers Council’s Abandonment
By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Ndigboamaka Progressive (Market) Association has vowed to shutdown major markets in solidarity with Nigerian freight forwarders over the imbroglio on the newly introduced Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) Valuation by the Nigeria Customs Service.
The association comprises of major importers of various commodities and trading under the name Ndigboamaka progressive Association, an umbrella body of major Market Associations in Lagos State, including Alaba international market, All Markets in Trade fair complex, Ladipo market, Coker building Materials among others.
Speaking at a press briefing organised in collaboration with Shippers Association Lagos State (SALS) on Wednesday, President of the association, Chief Dr. Jude Ringo Okeke equally accused the Nigerian Shippers Council of abandonment and showing no interest in the traders challenges.
While addressing the gathering alongside the association’s Secretary General, Hon Comrade Chinedu ukatu and President SALS, Rev Jonathan Nicole, the Indigboamaka President acknowledged the ongoing sufferings of freight forwarders at the port.
The group listed its demands which includes indefinite suspension of the VIN Valuation regime by the customs.
According to Chief Ringo Okeke “The introduction of VIN Valuation was not to the knowledge of Importers. Our Agents have limited authority to commit us in decision making.
“We are not with them in this VIN regime. So, the Nigeria Customs Service should serve the Importers to our satisfaction at all times. We want to be consulted in major decisions affecting our businesses.
“We shall not hesitate to shut down the Markets if decisions like this involving the traders, importers and the public are taken without our input as critical stakeholders”
According to him, the association brings in 60% of goods into Nigeria and employs over 10 million Nigerians and involves them in training to enable have their own businesses.
This according to him is a large support which the group is providing for the Federal Government.
He however lamented that despite the importance of this group to Nigerian economy, the Nigerian Shippers Council as port economic regulator has rebuffed all attempts and ignored letters written by the association for its intervention on port challenges.
“In recent times, we made efforts through the Nigerian Shippers Council to meet with the Executive Secretary, to broaden our collaboration and discuss how some of our vexatious Government policies can be amicably resolved. Several official letters were written with no positive response.
“This Press briefing became absolutely necessary because of the recent happenings in our ports and its effect to our markets, trade and economy across the Country.
“Our colleagues in the Freight Forwarding business has been having a bitter experience with the Nigerian Customs Service and other Government Agencies in the clearing of our consignments”
“The barrage of complaints has reached its pinnacles and we can’t bear it any further” he said
Other port problems faced by the group includes; arbitrary Detention charges from the Shipping Lines and Terminal storage charges running into billions of Naira.
Chief Ringo Okeke solicited for the Federal Government to set up a special fund to cushion the effects of harsh policies on their businesses.
He said “Most of our members are working with Bank loans with high interests and Government policies are making it impossible for us to pay back the loans. We totally reject that!
“Together with Shippers Association Lagos State we shall manage a fund set up by Government to cushion our financial pressure in the foreseeable future.
“The funds will be managed by Key Players in the Maritime Sector. No Government Agencies will interfere with it because of recorded failures.
“We wil do our best to protect the Shippers Association Lagos State, the Freight Forwarder, over 1500 of them working with us and join other Organised Private secte Importers to form the Federation of Shippers Organisation in Nigeria”