Founder, NAGAFF, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam

Francis Ezem

Against the background of recent measures put in place by the Federal Government to curtail the spread of the dreaded COVID-19 virus, founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders NAGAFF, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam has urged freight forwarding practitioners to stay away from the seaport environment if they have no serious business there.

Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had in a national broadcast last week announced a two-week lockdown in Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, which have so far recorded the highest number of persons infected with the pandemic among the 36 states of federation in order to stop its further spread.

The President, despite the restrictions, directed that the seaports must remain open and fully operational, but however listed some agencies and organisations that are exempted from the restrictions in the affected areas including Lagos within the 14-day period.

Aniebonam, while citing the President’s directives, noted that it has become necessary and expedient for freight forwarders to adhere strictly to the instructions as to maintaining social distancing as well as staying off the port environment if they have no serious business there.

“This is to advise the entire workforce of freight forwarding practitioners operating at the western ports of Nigeria to stay off the ports environment if he or she does not have a defined responsibility to carry out within the Customs ports for the time being.

“This has become necessary for your safety and protection from the dreaded pandemic, which has already infected some persons across the country. You also need to stay away from the seaport environment if you have no genuine reasons to go around there in order not to flout the presidential directives on ports’ operations”, Aniebonam warned.

He however expressed regrets that some banks are declining to undertake the processing of import documentations including registration of Form M, a development that might hamper the overall objective of the Federal Government in keeping the seaports open and fully operational.

It was gathered that the Nigerian Shippers Council, the Economic Regulator for the ports has fully been briefed about this ugly development, which has in turn launched investigation into the matter.

The NAGAFF founder commended the Shipper Council for its decision to donate buses that will pick freight forwarders and other approved port stakeholders from some designated locations in Lagos to the seaports, which would make movement in and out of the seaports easy and seamless over the lockdown period.

He however challenged other government agencies operating at the ports including the Nigerian Ports Authority and the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding Practice in Nigeria CRFFN to take a cue for the kind gesture of the council.

While also encouraging the freight forwarders on duty to report any act of complacency on the part of the officers and men of the Nigeria Customs Service, Aniebonam disclosed that the leadership of the association is in touch with top management of the service including the Comptroller General and other top officers at the command level.

He also assured the freighters that same applies to other agencies of the government including the Standards Organisation of Nigeria SON, National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control NAFDAC and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency NDLEA.

He therefore enjoined the freight forwarders on duty to report any lapses on the field to some designated top officials of the association, who are on ground at the national headquarters to take their complaints and act swiftly on them to forestall any delay or distortions on the supply chain.