National President of ANLCA, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike

Francis Ezem

Strong indications emerged that terminal operators have failed to comply with the 21-day rent- free period ordered by the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA in view of the lockdown, a development that may not have gone down well with the leadership of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents ANLCA.

NPA had penultimate week, announced the suspension of payment of all applicable terminal storage fees on consignments, fees, which are charged on imported consignments for an initial period of 21 days effective March 23, 2020. This directive was in reaction to the sit at home directive issued by the Federal Government to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

National President of the association, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike, who spoke Wednesday, in Lagos, confirmed the development. He disclosed that the association was working towards ensuring that the terminal operators inscribed the 21-day free rent period on their Demand Notes DN, insisting that Customs Brokers and freight forwarders have already gone through a lot of economic stress occasioned by the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown.

While however admitting that no member of the association has reported being made to pay the rent charge, he also noted that the leadership of the association under his watch would ensure that it does not take effect, as it would be unfair since the freighters did not order the sit at home nor are they the cause of the pandemic.

It was further gathered that the association has put its monitoring and taskforce team on red alert as from next week at all the port terminals to ensure that brokerage agents were not subjected to further hardship by imposing such payments on them, having suffered a lot already.

The President said: “There is no gain saying that the lockdown on economic activities in Lagos State occasioned by coronavirus pandemic has in no small way, affected our lives and businesses. But I urge you all not to despair as this is the price the whole world is paying now to keep both citizens and economies alive. I must say for us in Nigeria and the maritime sector, though it has not been easy, but not either too bad.

“Dear colleagues in the freight forwarding profession, as promised, I want to keep you abreast with the latest developments in the maritime sector as at today, Wednesday 8th, April, 2020. The Nigerian Shippers’ Council NSC in collaboration with the Nigeria Customs Service NCS has asked all Customs Brokers and freight forwarders who have finalised all payments of duty and ready to load their cargoes to do so as the Customs will allow exit of such cargoes from the ports during the public holidays from Friday 10th – Monday 13th of April 2020.

“The Nigerian Ports Authority NPA issued a mandate letter to terminal operators for a waiver on rent charges for an initial period of 21 days, effective March 23, 2020. The letter was dated April 2, 2020 and entitled: RELIEF MEASURES TO PORT USERS DUE TO OUTBREAK OF COVID19. It reads in part: “Following the scourge of COVID-9 pandemic and in line with the global trend of providing reliefs to businesses for the benefits of the general populace, you are hereby directed to suspend rent charges on consignments with effect from Monday, March 23, 2020 for an initial period of 21 days”.

He therefore urged the freight forwarders to optimise these two critical trade windows given by the government agencies involved by moving their consignments from the ports of Lagos as fast as you can, while the windows last.

He also assured that the leadership of ANLCA will, especially at this period liaise with all relevant government agencies and other port stakeholders to make sure that members do not suffer undue losses in this trying time. The President also appealed to all members to always follow the right channels of information so that they are not deprived or short changed by any agency during this period.

Nwabnike, who was the pioneer Chairman of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding Practice in Nigeria CRFFN, also appreciated the efforts of the Federal Government and its agencies operating in the ports for their efforts in making sure businesses move smoothly in the seaports during the period of lockdown.