BY GB OGBOWA GBOWA
The Founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, has backed the move by terminal operators to increase storage charges at the nation’s seaports.
The NAGAFF position is coming on the heels of the approval of the proposed increase in storage charges by terminal operators by the port economic regulator, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), reportedly to discourage the use of the ports and terminals as storage facilities.
In a statement issued Thursday by Aniebonam, the NAGAFF Founder said the removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government, high cost of diesel and declining value of the naira has imposed high operating cost port operational businesses, thereby necessitating an increase in charges.
The statement reads: “The truth of the matter is straightforward and unambiguous for us to understand that the operational cost of the terminal operators have increased due to the removal of fuel subsidy. Therefore the urgent need for them to break even as business enterprises cannot be over-emphasised.
“What shall be most appropriate at the moment is for the Nigeria Shippers Council to call for an emergency meeting of the stakeholders and the terminal operators to seat and work out a competitive price increase that is reasonable and affordable,” he said.
Going forward, Aniebonam counseled freight forwarders to show understanding and to support the system to overcome the present economic hardship in the country.
“Whatever it may be, it is my belief that this is the time for sacrifices and hard work if we must come out from the present economic hardship in our country. I therefore appeal to freight forwarding practitioners to exercise restraint and cooperate with the government authority to broker the unrest for the peace of the ports. Dialogue, consultation and communication are the ways going forward in conflict resolution other than violence.
“It is also very important that terminal operators should always seek approval of increase in charges from the appropriate authority in the transportation ministry and due consultation with the stakeholders. We share their difficulties like any other in Nigeria.”
He also harped on the need for the two leading freight forwarding associations, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and NAGAFF to work together to promote peace and harmony in the maritime industry.
It will also be recalled that the leadership of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) led by its National President, Mr Emenike Nwokeoji at a meeting with representatives of the umbrella body of terminal operators, the Seaport Terminal Owners Association of Nigeria (STOAN) had reportedly also shown understanding for the proposed hike in service charge; even though the leadership of ANLCA was believed to have pleaded with STOAN to stay action on the implementation of the increment pending when the freight forwarding community have been properly briefed and carried along in the change.
Earlier, former ANLCA Acting National President, Dr. Kayode Farinto had also explained the purported inevitability of the fee hike in response to the rising cost of diesel, declining value of the naira and high rate of inflation, among other factors.
In a statement attributed to him, Farinto said, “We all know that the indices of working in the port now are not as it used to be and things have changed. The terminal operators too are Nigerians and if we juxtapose what is happening vis-a-vis the fact that there has been increment in prices of fuel and the dollar has risen, so there has to be a rise in their charges too. We are in an era where you cannot predict the dollar and these people are rendering services so it becomes inevitable for them to increase.
“Nobody should be criticised for that. But I want to commend them because they are coming late in increasing their charges because I know that if it were to be the old operators, they would have increased the charges but they took their time before they did this. There is nothing anyone can do about it.”
This is even as he charged the federal government to repair the dilapidated port access roads to reduce the hardship faced by importers and their agents.