It has been disclosed that the Nigeria Shippers’ Council has performed below expectations in the protection of shippers as they are been treated with disdain.
This was made known recently by Dr. Kayode Farinto, the newly appointed spokesman for Shippers Association of Lagos State.
Dr Farinto who disclosed this at a media parley in Lagos said his association is considering to vacate the office space provided for it in the Shippers Tower of NSC in Apapa following their dissatisfaction with the way their affairs are being handled by the council.
According to him, shippers are being treated with disdain despite their important role of bringing cargoes into the country and making the chain of commerce stronger.
He added that cargoes being brought into the country is the reason there are commercial activities in the port and where the shipper becomes discouraged in business, the economy will be adversely influenced.
Farinto identified arbitrary shipping charges, alleged non facilitation of trade by Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), incessant police harassment of shippers and other allegations of anti trade practices begging for the NSC’s attention.
“Shippers Association will move out of Shippers Council; that is the first thing I want to announce, and we will partner with a lot of agencies in the industry. When you have barriers in trade, the shipper is the one who suffers it, because he is the one bringing in the cargo. It is unfortunate that the Nigerian government is paying lip service to trade facilitation.
“The reason is that we feel the association has been treated with disdain; we have not been given the right recognition and cooperation that is expected, despite our complaints. And it looks as if maybe because we’re their tenants, that is why nobody listens to us.
“So let us be independent, even if it means paying for it ourselves; maybe then, we’ll be able to achieve our goals.
“I keep saying it, and I’ve projected that last year, Nigeria nearly wound up in recession, because we’re not producing anything. Our economy is entirely dependent on imports, and this year, coupled with the fact that there is a new discovery with the coronavirus, restrictions may be more this year than it was last year.
“Now, how do we help the economy? It is very important for the government to start looking at alternatives to generate more revenue. Oil, the ports, etc. And I do know that the government is proposing a lot of things this year; there may be increment on PMS, a lot of VATs here and there, and additional taxes levied on shippers. But the most important thing is to look at it going forward, even though we have to be patriotic on that, Nigeria’s economy must not fall, but the man that brings in the cargo must be protected. And the first thing to do is that the Shippers Association, like I said, will vacate the Shippers Council building and look for better accommodations.
“Secondly, the cargo defense fund, which has been a very germane issue, is ongoing now; the Bill is before the National Assembly, and they’re looking into it. I also want to tell you that the Nigerian Shippers Association, Lagos chapter, wants to come out more to see how we can be part of that fund, because we will not want it to be a moribund one, or that of the vessel financing fund which has swallowed billions without yielding any results. The cargo defense fund is to assist shippers and cushion the effects of hazards like the coronavirus, so we’re going to come out and see how we can be a part of it.
“Thirdly, we want to implore the Shippers Council to carry everybody along this year. We want to discourage situations where an issue affects cargo and you’re calling everybody separately. In as much as we’re all working towards the same objective, we all need to be carried along, so as to have collective responsibility, make collective decisions that will affect us all, particularly regarding trade. We all know that everybody in the industry, either stakeholders, laborers, freight forwarders or shippers, the most important thing is the cargo. So we need to protect that chicken that is laying the golden egg, because that golden egg is the cargo. Let it not be like we just drink the malt and toss the can away; the shippers must be protected. They need to be empowered and encouraged.
“I look at the role of the shipper in the industry, and I notice that the association has not been carried along, so to say. You know that we are being housed by the Shippers Council, so I need you to go there, second floor and see the kind of accommodation we are being given. So, this year, for us to move forward, we need to project loudly so people can hear us
“A of things are involved; look at the issue of SARS and the illegal shipping charges that were slammed on Nigerian importers, which has been decided in High Court and moved to the Supreme Court. Look also at the issue of freight charges, various terminal operators and even the role of Customs in our industry. I’ve never seen where the Nigerian Shippers Council has condemned the role of the Customs Service, or where they told the whole world that our Customs is not facilitating trade.
“WTO said that if you must look at trade facilitation, you have to talk about simplicity of documentation in cargo clearance, which we do not have. We do not even have predictability. Even, if as a shipper, you’re bringing in genuine goods and making a declaration, it is subject to internet value. And Nigerian Shippers Council has not deemed it fit to condemn the use of internet value, knowing fully well that we have Valuation Act, which is domesticated and is a local law.
“These are the things that Nigerians expect; protection to the highest level. Because that is the core reason for forming the Council, to protect the shippers. If you look at the volume of our cargo that goes to Ivory Coast, for instance, we’re losing cargo on a daily basis. It’s over 55% now, and it shouldn’t be so; the Council should have woken up by now to wonder why we’re losing cargo. Customs are also not doing well; as economic regulators, they have failed, and Nigerian shippers are complaining. You make a declaration now, and when you expect it to arrive, they tell you that the police have blocked it. We had an agreement when Hassan Bello wrote to the IG of police and the latter directed that on no condition should the police interfere, block or stop cargo delivery. But it is still happening on a daily basis, and the Shippers Council has done nothing to make it stop.
“Even within the domicile of the Ministry of Transport, there are departments that are impediments to trade, but nothing has been done. That is the problem that we have.
“I think that is where we got it wrong. I am one of the apostles that believed that the Shippers Council should be port economic regulators, but if you look at the Act that governs the Council, you will see that she is saddled with the task of protecting shippers. Now, the added responsibility of being economic regulators is making them to be tilting to one side.