Shippers Association Lagos State (SALS) has called on the Federal Government to declare state of emergency at the Nigerian ports over increased cost of doing business, which negates the Ease of Doing business in the country.
The shippers said the recent hike in exchange rate of N361 to a US dollar by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for clearing cargo has no bearing and described the N361 exchange rate and the recent 7.5 per cent VAT for maritime industry as deadly.
Speaking, the President of SALS, Rev Jonathan Nicol said the recent increase in the exchange rate in clearing cargo violates economic decency, saying that the exchange rate has been increased twice within the space of six months.
According to him, as a result of the increase in exchange rate, all the goods in the ports now will attract the new rate, adding that the increase would induce shortage of cargo as time goes on, which is already reflecting in the cargo throughput.
He explained that industries, importers, shippers and exporters will have to source for additional funds to clear their cargo trapped in the ports due to coronavirus pandemic under the one month stay at home order of the Federal Government.
He added: “Infact, the Government is telling us that they are in panic due to global economic downturn. It is not the fault of the shipper for the collapse of economic financial policies of Government. The new rate does not reflect on Form Ms already approved by the CBN. It is the approved rate on the Form M that is used to procure foreign exchange for each shipment and also effect transfers to suppliers.
“We have now reached a stage for the declaration of emergency in the port environment. Shippers Associations in Nigeria are awed by the actions of Government in this respect. There is need for Government to declare state of emergency at the ports.”
Speaking further, he said the excess fund being raised through Customs has no bearing. He said it is believed, maybe, that the excess fund is sent to an escrow account domiciled in the CBN for no useful purposes.
He hinted that It is expected that the CBN should have supported entrepreneurs through flexible bank loans with low interest rates since the maritime sector is the only inlet available to generate revenue at the moment.
“We sympathise with the Government for their inability to make the Port viable due to its panic reactions. It is only wise to reverse the trend of failure. All the goods now in the Port should be exempted in this current increase in exchange rate. This includes goods that are in the high seas with approved Central Bank Form M,” he added.
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