Clearing agents threaten to shut ports over charges

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There are indications that the current strike by clearing agents at the APM terminals in Lagos may be extend to all seaports in the country by the end of the week.

The clearing agents have since November 3, 2014 blocked the APM terminals in protest over what they called high charges and unsatisfactory services.

The President, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, Mr. Olayiwola Shittu, said a nationwide strike by customs agents and freight forwarders had become inevitable given the high charges being forced on them by terminal operators, shipping agencies and government regulatory agencies.

Shittu accused government agencies like the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service and Standards Organisation of Nigeria of arbitrarily charging the customs agents and freight forwarders.

He said, “All regulatory agencies like NESREA, SON, NAFDAC and NAQS are all making money illegally under the guise of internally generated revenue.

“Imagine a situation where NAFDAC, without any warning, increases all its charges by 100 per cent. Formerly, if you want to register a product that you plan to import into Nigeria with NAFDAC, it used to be N400,000; now it is N2m.This is what we are suffering from agencies that are appropriated funds annually by the National assembly.

“SON is just as guilty. Now they are charging N20,000 per vehicle to carry out pre-shipment inspection of used vehicles. They started this from November 1, 2014. They also charge N3,500 for every 20 feet container that comes into the country and N7,000 for every 40 feet container; they call it handling fee. All these charges are illegal and will eventually translate to high cost of goods for the end user.”

Shittu also explained that the clearing agents were forced to go on strike at the APMT after repeated attempts to discuss the issues in contention with the management failed and accused the firm of refusing to collect letter of complaints from the association.

He described the strike at the APM terminals as a rehearsal of what would eventually happen nationwide if the Federal Government failed to intervene.

He added that a detailed report of all illegal charges at the ports had been prepared and would be sent to the President for his consideration before the agents and freight forwarders would withdraw their services.

The national executives of ANLCA and the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders are expected to meet on Wednesday to discuss pending issues. A nationwide strike is expected to commence after a joint meeting of both associations on Friday.

“We are going to give an ultimatum and after that start the strike to bring government’s attention to what is happening at our ports,” Shittu said.

The Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria has, however, accused the agents of using the current situation as a ploy to force its members to comply with an order of the Nigeria Shippers Council to reverse port charges to what were in force as of May 1, 2009.

The STOAN spokesperson, Mr. Bolaji Akinola said, “The blockade of the APM Terminals is simply a reckless act capable of hurting the nation’s economy. STOAN is calling on the police, NPA and other concerned authorities to clear the blockade and allow those who wish to clear their cargoes at the affected terminal to have access to it.”

Sourced From: http://www.punchng.com/business/business-economy/clearing-agents-threaten-to-shut-ports-over-charges/

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