COVID-19: ANLCA writes Osinbajo, seeks ‘Force Majeure’ on import, export cargo
Sequel to the sit at home and social distancing order issued by the Federal Government as part of measures to curtail the spread of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic in the country, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents ANLCA, has written the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, requesting him to declare a Force Majeure on import and export goods at the air, seaports and land borders.
In a letter dated March 27, 2020, addressed to the Vice President and signed by the National President of the association, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike, asked the Vice President to direct the shipping companies and terminal operators in the country’s air, seaports and land borders not to impose any form of rent or demurrage fees throughout the period of the economic and social lock down due to the pandemic.
According to him, due to the lockdown, there would be serious backlog of import and export cargo at the various entry points and which would take some time to clear even after the COVID-19 shutdown, leading to accumulation of huge rent and demurrage charges payable to the terminal operators and shipping companies.
The National President, who also reminded the Vice President that the association has since complied with the sit at home order by shutting its national secretariat, however expressed members’ apprehension that shipping companies and terminal operators may impose huge rent and demurrage charges during the period of the lockdown, a development that would cause more damage to their businesses, having been shut down for some time.
The letter reads in part: “Your Excellency Sir, as you already know, it is difficult, if not totally impossible to process Customs documentation and take delivery of cargoes from our ports during this period. Even if the goods are cleared from the ports, they cannot be taken to the importers’ warehouses since State Governments have closed interstate borders, while markets are locked and movement of certain vehicles restricted.
“We now have a situation and unavoidable circumstances that make the activation of Force Majeure inevitable in line with international best practice. We also appeal to the Federal Government to prevail on shipping companies, terminal operators and other agencies in the ports to be prepared to waive all charges, taxes and fees that may accrue during this period of global tragedy.
“Consequently we propose that all demurrage, rents, penalties etc. emanating from the inability of the freight agents to clear cargoes as at when due from the ports at this period be waived effective from the first week in March, 2020, which was when the first case of the deadly virus was detected in Nigeria.
The association expressed satisfaction with the measures already being taken by the Federal Government of Nigeria to fight the coronavirus. It also pledged its full support and solidarity with the government, having shut national secretariat since last week and advised members across the country to practice the social distancing and stay at home order as issued by the Federal Government in its efforts to help contain the spread of the virus.