The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) on Tuesday said the Federal Government and port operators lost about N40 billion to the 11-day strike which crippled Apapa Port in last month.
This is contained in a statement made available to newsmen in Lagos by the Public Relations Officer of the association, Mr Simeon Nwonu.
The statement described the strike as “needless’’, adding that there was no reason for it.
It expressed concern over the long ship waiting time experienced at the port during the strike.
“For avoidance of doubt, it is on record that the alleged complaint against APMT operations (the concessionaire of the Apapa Container Terminal) is not peculiar to Apapa Port.
“The issue of arbitrary charges is a matter which affects almost all terminal operators in Nigerian ports.
“This matter at present is being handled by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) as the commercial regulator.
“We are aware that a case is pending at the High Court between the terminal operators and Nigerian Shippers’ Council with regards to arbitrary charges,’’ the statement said.
“APMT is a world-class terminal operator and an investor in Nigeria that requires the support and protection of our country.
“If the agency of government which had the schedule to administer our ports had performed well, it is obvious that our ports may not have been concessioned,’’ NAGAFF said.
The statement said that a good example was that of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) which had retrieved its statutory function from the service providers after several years, with the help of the freight forwarders of Nigeria.
“We do hope that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) will take advantage, using its oversight functions to ensure that our ports are friendly and competitive.
“The essence and primary objective of port concession is to bring about efficiency, competitiveness and reduction of costs.
“It is most unfortunate that human element problems, including but not limited to corruption; non-compliance with import regulations, disregard for rule of law and inadequate cargo handling equipment are the bane of our port operations.
“The Nigerian seaports like any other all over the world is a transit area for goods and persons,’’ the statement said.
It said: “what we see today is that ports are being used as warehouses and thereby distorting the entire system in ports administration and management.’’
NAGAFF said that Section 31 of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) was clear as to the dwell time of cargo in the ports which should not exceed 30 days.
The statement said: “thereafter such goods would be moved out of the port for further action, including but not limited to processes leading to auction.
“The point herein is to ask why uncleared cargo lists are not being prepared and such cargo transferred to the designated outer terminals.
“Progressive port charges for unlawful stay of cargo in our ports become necessary as a deterrent to the defaulters.
“It is also a fact that the cargo scanners are not optimal in their performance, due to frequent breakdown,’’ the association said.
The statement condemned the administration of the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) regime and maintenance of the scanners by the customs service with a `meagre’ sum of 7 per cent of the total duty collected.
It said that the service had to attend to the general welfare of officers and men, salary, capital projects and other logistics required to ensure an efficient customs operations.
“We advocate that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council be allowed to conclude the on-going court processes with the terminal operators to resolve the issue of arbitrary charges and other incidentals,’’ it said.
The statement directed all members of NAGAFF to exercise restraint in any matter leading to the closure of the port and explore all amicable avenues with the authority.