By Eromosele Abiodun
Clearing agents at the nation’s airports have called on the federal government to intervene on the demand for storage charges by Nigerian Aviation Handling Company, (NAHCO) Plc and Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO), during the lockdown period.
The President of Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics on Nigeria, (APFFLON), Frank Ogunojemite, in a statement accused NAHCO and SAHCO of demanding for storage charges during the lockdown.
The APFFLON alleged that after observing the one-month lockdown to curb the COVID-19 pandemic in Lagos, freight forwarders resumed at the airports on Monday May 4, only to find out that NAHCO and SAHCO had slammed demurrage charges on goods uncleared as well as consignments which arrived during the lockdown.
Ogunojemite, further accused the two companies of non-compliance with the federal government order, saying their decision succeeded in sparking off avoidable protest that resulted to the assemblage of protesters, thereby violating the social distancing order.
While calling on the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika to urgently intervene, he said, “Above all, APFFLON on behalf of all freight forwarders beckoned on the Federal Government, the Minister Of Aviation, Minister of Transportation, and concerned stakeholders to urgently intervene and save Nigerians from being exploited by the duo of SAHCOL and NAHCO.”
Ogunojemite, said the importers and freight agents should obey the President’s directive to stay at home, therefore ground-handling companies should waive storage charges for the period.
He said, “Is it the fault of importers and freight agents that there was a lockdown? How can these companies charge us for the lockdown period? We expect 100 percent storage-free period and nothing less. As a result of this crisis no business activity has taken place at SAHCO or NAHCO.
“I see this as an act of irresponsibility and wickedness on the part of ground handling companies, because they could work out a rebate with Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).”
He stated that the protest wouldn’t have been considered in the first place had it been the cargo handling companies did not come up with such callous decision.
He accused NAHCO and SAHCOL of creating artificial monopoly in cargo handling business thereby making cargo clearing business very difficult for agents, adding that for the fact that agents have no other choice than to patronise either of the two companies, now made them to hinge on that to punish them at their whims and caprices.
The APPFLON boss outlined the measures his association had taken so far to draw the attention of the FAAN, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council(NSC) and the Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding practice in Nigeria (CRFFN) to the matter.
He kicked against the alleged exploitation, saying that the decision taken by the companies would not stand.
He, however, advised the handling companies to work out a rebate with FAAN, by tendering a proof of the consignments they gave waivers to in order to get similar compensation that will be given to shipping companies and Terminal operators at sea port by the Federal Government for same waiver from Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA).