By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has been urged to take advantage of the Cabotage Act in order to protect its jobs from the incursion of foreigners including Chinese, Turkish, Koreans among others.
Maritime lawyer, Barr Foluke Akinmoladun while addressing members of ANLCA during a sensitization workshop on Tuesday in Lagos, noted that indigenization of freight forwarding jobs, as well as ship repair were not captured and protected under the Cabotage Act.
Akinmoladun is the Managing Solicitor of Trizon Law Chambers, Lagos, Nigeria. She is a lawyer, a mediator, an arbitrator, and an accountant.
During her brief interactive session with ANLCA members on Tuesday, she noted that jobs that ought to be done by Nigerians are being taken over by foreigners.
“Unfortunately, with the Cabotage Act that could have helped the situation, it is obeyed more in disobedience than in obedience. When our regulators get paid, the ships that ordinarily shouldn’t berth are berthing at our ports.
“Local content was pushed in the oil and gas sector and it has successfully increased the participation of Nigerians there.
There are already Nigerians in Freight Forwarding job, but there is no law backing the freight forwarding and preserving it for only Nigerians.
“Last year, there was an attempt to review the Cabotage Act, but unfortunately, the new Act was not passed into Law. One of the problems with the previous Cabotage Act was that freight forwarding was not included in the areas that Nigerians are supposed to be covered. In terms of ship ownership, manning, seafarers, barging are all covered, but freight forwarding and ship repair is not covered, which means that foreigners can legitimately enter into Nigeria and practice freight forwarding because there is no law barring their actions.
“These are part of what ANLCA should pursue. In the Cabotage Act, freight forwarding should be part of the areas that must be protected.
“It is bad enough that we are bringing in foreign goods and it is foreigners that are shipping it here, should it also be foreigners that would be clearing it? And we are the ones consuming it. Currently, the entire value chain does not include Nigerians and this needs to be addressed” Akinmoladun stated
Akinmoladun urged ANLCA leadership to brace-up for more competition, saying that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is around the corner and this would lead to more Africans taking over the job of Nigerian freight forwarders.
She noted that currently, cargoes are shipped from China to Nigeria by Chinese, carried on Chinese owned vessels and shipping companies, the cargo is cleared by Chinese freight forwarders, kept in a Chinese rented warehouse, using Chinese owned trucks.
“Throughout that value chain, there is no Nigerian shipowner, truckowner or warehouse. We need to be conscious of the fact that the competition is already here and look at things that Nigerians need to do to ensure that their share of the market is not lost to foreigners.
“African competition is even far off, what about the Chinese, South Korean and Turkish competition?
“One of the easiest ways to address the challenges of freight forwarders with shipping companies, especially regards return of empty containers and refunds, is for Nigerians to carry Nigerian cargoes.
“It is unfortunate but that is what it is, because even if you decide to take them to court, the court is going to look at your contract, which is your bill of lading and terms of contract of carriage, except you are a major carrier, it is going to be very difficult to negotiate these terms. As long as you are the weaker negotiating partner, you would never get what you want.
“So, things like Nigeria becoming a member of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on the Council level is very important because we would able to eradicate all these unfriendly shipping terms at our ports. Nigeria is a major cargo carrying nation, we are not a ship owning nation, so we are at the mercy of Shippers” she said
The legal luminary was also inducted into ANLCA as an honorary member with the association lapel by the ANLCA National Treaurer, Hajia Bola Muse on behalf of its National President, Emenike Nwokeoji.