— as ANLCA, NAGAFF disagree over strike option.
Segun Oladipupo and Chinazor Megbolu
There was tension at the Lagos Ports yesterday as angry freight forwarders rallied themselves together to protest the refusal of Terminal operators to grant waivers on demurrage and other storage charges.
At the height of the Coronavirus pandemic which necessitated the partial lockdown of the country, the Federal government has exempted the port industry from the shutdown.
However, the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), had directed the Terminal operators to grant waivers covering 35 days on demurrage and other storage charges as a form of palliatives for importers and their agents.
The operators, despite assurances from the NPA that they will be adequately compensated for the gesture, had refused to grant the waivers.
However, yesterday, there was palpable tension at the ports as agents vowed to protest the refusal of the operators to comply with NPA directive.
However, there was disagreement over the mode of protest.
While the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) was disposed to a strike action, its arch-rival sister association, the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) differed on the method.
Alhaji Mukaila Abdulaziz, the General Secretary of ANLCA told our correspondent that the association has embarked on a warning strike to protest the non-compliance of the operators to the NPA directive.
“We are on a warning strike”.
We are aware of the sensitivity of the port industry to the economic growth of Nigeria, that is why we would not go on full blast strike now.
We shall leave room for negotiation but will not back down until the operators comply with the directive. We cannot be made to pay for what we didn’t cause”.
The ANLCA Chief scribe revealed that while the terminal operators refused to grant waivers as directed by the NPA, APM terminals and Ports and Cargo terminals, the only two terminals which initially complied, have reversed their positions.
“They too have refused to grant the waivers, claiming that they will not give such moratorium on the second lockdown that extended the period of waivers regime”
However, Stanley Ezenga, the Public Relations Officer of NAGAFF, countered the position of ANLCA scribe.
“NAGAFF cannot be part of it(strike action) because earlier in the week, we released a statement asking members of NAGAFF not to stress the already distressed economy.
“We told our members that have paid after the directive by NPA that terminal should not collect demurrage to collate such and we will address that later.
“The economy is already distressed since the price of oil dropped and the government must look for other means to sustain the economy.
“We are not part of the protest against the terminal operators because we cannot join hands to stress the already distressed economy”‘
The position of Otunba Frank Ogunojemite, Chairman, Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON), conflicted with the claims of ANLCA scribe when he said there was no strike at the port as at yesterday.
“There is no protest in the port as I am talking to you (yesterday).
“Though there was supposed to be one but I think it has been shifted till Monday because some of the terminals like APMT have started complying with the directive.“Nobody protested in the port today(yesterday).
“Was it Tony Iju or Farinto that led the ANLCA protest?“There can’t be a protest in the port without people calling me to tell me about it.“If there is going to be a strike, it is going to be on Monday” he declared.
“I’m inside the port now(yesterday). Agents are mobilizing workers and nobody is allowed to go into APM Terminals. “There is a crowd of people at APMT. Definitely, it’s about demurrage, and importers shouldn’t be punished for what they don’t know about. No importer was part of the cause of the Covid-19 pandemic. They should be allowed to go freely.
“A lot of companies are using waivers and some are paying workers for not doing anything for the past one month. Why should importers be paying for demurrage in the port?”
Mr. Tony Anakebe, an ANLCA chieftain observed.
“It’s a serious issue that government had to intervene and it’s left for the shipping companies and terminal operators to look at it and view it with human face and support for the business to pick or pack.
“It’s when a business is booming that they can also count their profit. They shouldn’t allow it to degenerate to the level of going on strike because it’s going to affect everybody more”
Segun Musa, NAGAFF chieftain stated.
However, Tony Nwabunike, the National President of ANLCA told our correspondent that the leadership of the association was trying to engage the terminal operators in a dialogue in a bid to ensure they comply with NPA directive.
Apparently acting as a stabilizing factor to stave off disruption of ports activities, Nwabunike said discussions are ongoing to address the controversial issue.
“We shall get back to you when we arrive at final conclusion”‘
he promised our correspondent.
However, the Nigerian Ports Authority has asked the freight Forwarders to come with documentary evidence of any terminal operator who failed to comply with the authority’s directive.
Adams Jato, the General Manager, Corporate and Communications strategy of NPA said the agency cannot act on verbal notice except on concrete ground.
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