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Freight forwarders decry exploitation, threaten to withdraw services

By Adaku Onyenucheya
12 November 2021   |   4:05 am
Freight forwarders have accused the government of backing foreign shipping companies to frustrate businesses at the port, just as it claimed the liners are taking advantage of the corruption index of the country to exploit locals.

(Photo by Benson Ibeabuchi / AFP)

Freight forwarders have accused the government of backing foreign shipping companies to frustrate businesses at the port, just as it claimed the liners are taking advantage of the corruption index of the country to exploit locals.

The five freight forwarding group under the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) disclosed this yesterday, during a meeting with shipping companies to address the lingering 11- point issues raised, in which they had threatened service withdrawal.

The issues include the depletion of container deposit refunds, undue debts on equipment detention, therefore, bringing them into dispute with their clients, unnecessary extortion of transporters (N150,000 per drop) at holding bays and network issues, difficulty in raising invoices and daily losses of at least N10m.

The groups include Association of Nigeria Customs Licensed Agents, (ANCLA), National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, (AREFFN), National Council of Managing Directors (NCMDLCA) and National Association of Air Freight Forwarders and Consolidators, (NAFFAC).

The Deputy National President of NAGAFF, Simeon Nwonu, frowned at the opportunity the government gave to foreign shipping companies, whom he said would come to Nigeria and begin to manipulate businesses meant for the locals to their advantage.

He lamented that the shipping companies have continued to frustrate freight forwarders, saying: “Neocolonialism is what we are experiencing in Nigeria, where some people would come into Nigeria to manipulate everything to their own advantage and to the disadvantage of Nigerians. I lost almost N1 million and I had to back down because I kept going to the shipping company to get my refund for months, which I didn’t get.

“The shipping companies and terminal operators don’t care about us; they are being backed by some unseen Government forces in Nigeria. Some would even have the boldness to say they would call someone in Abuja and then pick up their phone and call the person. They are taking us for granted, they feel we are blacks and Nigeria is a corrupt nation and therefore anything goes,” he said.

The Vice President of ANCLA, Dr Kayode Farinto, frowned at the shipping companies’ refusal to create adequate holding bays, adding that the available ones cannot contain the number of empty containers they have.

He noted that shipping companies are taking advantage of the recent global policy of desulphurisation, which has raised the cost of fuel, to shift their responsibilities by leaving empty containers behind, preferring to move export cargoes in order to make money.

“When the shipping companies come to the country with cargoes, they don’t want to go back with empty containers. They prefer to go with export because they are going to get their freight from there.

“Meanwhile, they are transferring these responsibilities to Nigeria. It is possible in Nigeria because anything goes here. But we are saying no to it. The Friday meeting will also involve the Nigeria Shippers’ Council. We are going to look at the issues holistically,” he said.

The Registrar, CRFFN, Nwakohu Samuel, who presided over the meeting, told the freight forwarders not to pay transfer charges on containers, adding that part of the resolutions at the meeting was that all charges in respect of transfer of containers should be put on hold.

Nwakohu said the issue had been extended to the executive meeting, which will be hold today (Friday) while expressing optimism that the outcome would be a win-win situation for all parties involved.

Meanwhile, the five accredited freight forwarding associations have insisted that if their demands are not met after the meeting, they will have no other option than to withdraw their services from the ports.

The Chairman of the NAGAFF 100 per cent Compliance team, Ibrahim Tanko, said the service withdrawal at the ports has been moved forward to allow for the executive session to take place, adding that if there is no resolution, the withdrawal of service will start on November 17, 2021.

Representing the shipping liners, the Chairman, Shipping Agents Association of Nigeria, Andrew Lynch, said the 11 point issues raised are valid challenges, especially the returning of empty containers to the shipping companies and their transfer to the bonded terminal.