Port activities, especially cargo clearance, were still abysmally low at the ports despite the efforts of port regulatory agencies which offered palliatives to enable freight forwarders surmount the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic.
The Nigerian Shippers’ Council has offered free transportation for freight Forwarders to aid their movement to and from the ports amidst COVID-19 lockdown.
Banks were asked to open to facilitate payment of Customs duties.
The Nigerian Port Authority has given rent-free days and suspended payment of demurrage, all in a bid to ease cargo clearance procedures.
But freight forwarders have said that all these palliatives, as good as they are, paled into insignificance as overzealous security agents, and non-compliant banks, made nonsense of government efforts to keep the ports working.
They lamented that not much was achieved in the first week of the lockdown in respect of cargo clearance at the ports.
They decried the harassment by security operatives deployed to enforce stay at home order by the federal government adding that not much was achieved in the first week of the lockdown.
They added that despite the buses provided by the Nigerian Shippers Council to convey agents to the port, insignificant success was recorded because people found it difficult to move from their individual locations to the points where the vehicles were available.
Otunba Frank Ogunojemite, Chairman, Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON) told our correspondent on phone that not much was achieved in the past week.
Otunba Ogunojemite said that enough sensitization should have been carried out by the government to inform the security agents that freight forwarders should be allowed to move during the lockdown.
He added that the buses made available by the Council could not pick much people because it did not reach the actual points where people reside.
He therefore called on the management of the Council to help educate the security officers on the road to allow anyone that identifies himself as freight forwarder easy passage on the road even as he said, that, the buses should be made to go farther than they have been.
His words, “NSC did not look at how people will move around now that commercial vehicles are unavailable; so, since last week, we cannot say anything is being done.
“The only thing I found was that GT Bank was doing online payment until yesterday that other Banks were opened.
“Provision of bus does not make 100 percent easy movement because people have to connect from one place to another.
“Imagine someone living in Sango, Okokomaiko or Ikorodu and a bus is available in those places and you cannot connect from where you are to where buses are available, you cannot go.
“Are our officers being sensitised, are there any engagement prior to that, is their national response?
“How many containers went out this past week, for shipping companies and customs, how many TDOs were written, how many jobs have they exited? Can we say this last week was fruitful or not.
Also speaking, the President General of National Association of Freight Forwarders and Air Consolidators (NAFFAC), Prince Adeyinka Bakare buttressed the claim that freight forwarders were harassed by security operatives.
He stated that not all banks opened in the previous week as expected which he claimed hampered port operations.
“Not all the banks were opened. We still want other banks to come on. Also, on the road, the security officials are harassing our people,” he said.
Edited by ‘Biodun Soyele
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