The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has call on the federal government to embark on total lock down of the seaports as already done in the airports and border stations to curb the spread of the deadly Coronavirus and to protect Nigerian workforce operating in the ports.
The clarion call which was made through the office of the National President of the association, Honorable Iju Tony Nwabunike in an open letter addressed to the Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Prof Yemi Osinbajo stated that the association is pleased with measures already taken by the Federal Government to fight the Coronavirus (Covid19) scourge in a bid to stop the spread in Nigeria.
Iju disclosed that ANLCA as a body is in full support of Federal Government directive on self distancing and stay at home order which has prompted the association to shutdown its National Secretariat since last week and advise all members across the Country to practice same so as to be a partaker of the federal government efforts to help curtail spread of the virus which may be occasioned by moving from offices to ports and to various homes.
He expressed his fear in the area of losing money and investments through demurrage and other charges as may be effected by the shipping companies and terminal operators operating in the ports.
In his words “Your Excellency sir, there is no gain saying that before the Covid 19 pandemic subsides for normal businesses in the seaports, airports and border stations to take it full swing, imported and exported items might have been trapped in the various gateways to the nation. As such demurrages and rent payable to Shipping Companies, Concessionaires/Terminal Operators will have attend an unbearable proportion due to the lock down.
“As you already know sir, it is difficult, if not totally impossible to process customs documentation and take delivery of cargoes in our ports during this period. Even when attempts is made, it becomes difficult because state governments have closed interstate borders, markets are locked and movement of certain vehicles restricted” he said.
He however pled with the federal government to use it’s good office to short down all activities in the port and mandate shipping companies, terminal operators and other agencies in the ports to grant waivers for all charges.
“We now have a situation and irresistible circumstances that make the plea and activation of “Force Majeure” in line with international best practices inevitable.
“We hereby call for the enforcement of “Force Majeure” and total lockdown of our seaports as already done in the airports and border stations to curb the spread of the deadly Coronavirus and to protect the Nigerian workforce operating in our ports.
“We also appeal to the Federal government to prevail on shipping companies, terminal operators and other agencies in the ports to be prepared to waive all charges, taxes and fees during this period of national compromise at all levels.
“Consequently we seek for all demurrage, rents, penalties etc emanating from inability to clear cargoes as at when due from the ports at this period to be waived effective from the first week of March, 2020 when the first case of the deadly virus was detected in Nigeria through an Italian citizen.
“Your Excellency sir, we are appealing that you use your good office to ensure that this is implemented Immediately.
“Sir, please note that we are dealing with concessionaires, shipping companies and others who are mainly foreigners, hence the need for government intervention and enforcement has become necessary.
“This open letter has become necessary in order to create a conflict free and friendly business operating environment, even after this national pandemic is over.
“We also want to use this medium to assure the Federal Government of Nigeria that ANLCA and all its members across the country wil support the government and all its agencies in the ports to make sure government achieve its objectives in making sure activities in the ports return to normal, especially in collecting revenue to the government.” he quipped.
Meanwhile, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) is established by Act of Parliament vide Illiteracy Act of 1954. It is the umbrella body of Customs Brokers and maritime practitioners in Nigeria reputed as Africa’s largest and finest professional maritime/freight forwarding association.