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Chairman of Shippers Association Lagos State (SALS), Rev. Jonathan Nicol, has provided solutions to the endless challenges of indigenous shippers in Nigeria since the 2006 Port concession.
In an interview in Lagos, he argued that “It is because of the myriads of unsolved problems that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council was established by the Federal Government in 1978 to protect Shippers, Importers and Exporters, respectively. Over the years, there had been a systematic collapse of Import Adjustments policies which has remained unsustainable till date.
“The Nigerian Ports Authority jettisoned their role as Terminal Operators and became Landlords in the hope that their present role would improve the quality of services. Some of the space given to (Concessionaire) Operators will last for 25 years; some 12 years; but fast turning into 25 years of immense suffering for cargo owners, under failed Government Import Adjustments policies.
“The Concession Agreement of 2006 has failed woefully, unfortunately. The effect of the presence of our Protectors – the Nigerian Shippers Council – has received tremendous resistance from the benefactors of the old system!” the SALS Arrowhead, Jonathan Nicol lamented.
However, on how to resolve the issues hobbling the sector, Rev. Nicol said there is need for the government to as a matter of urgency, effect substantial reduction of charges from all Government Agencies, operating in the Port; Restructuring of the Port Concession Agreement based upon collective bargaining as it affects the Nigerian environment;
Reduction of more Government Agencies operating in the Ports; A Government Pronouncement that “Shippers should pay for Container Deposits, which is the norm in order for them to get their container refunds, through their accredited Freight Forwarders.”
The Concessioners should provide accelerated clearing methods to decongest the Ports.
While observing that the intractable gridlock at Apapa in Lagos was due to the lack of “holding Bay” for empty Containers, he stressed that time has come for “the Nigeria Customs service should be restructured to follow the rules of engagement without militarising the trade environment with gun throttle officers intimidating the public with their annoying sirens.
The shippers boss called for the discontinuation of Federal Operations Unit (FOU) of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), saying “the authorities Stabilize the Import Duty Exchange rate as approved in the Form M; for Exchange or payment of goods through the banks to normally attract official bank exchange rates and not through the black market’s unstable rates.”
“The Council of Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) should make sure that Nigerians registered with the Council are protected. Clearing jobs should be reserved for indigenes
“Trade borders should be reopened while discussions should be ongoing with our trade counterparts.
Before he summed up, Rev. Nicol called for the strengthening of the core port regulator, the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) with adequate funding and operational space at the ports.