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Pearl Ngwama

The Vice Chairman of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Branch, Mr. Udeagha Nwosu, has lamented that the ban on international flights due the COVID-19 pandemic, has taken a toll on freight forwarders operating at the Airport.

In an interview with Timenewsreporters in Lagos, Nwosu explained that because there were no passenger flights, people cannot travel out to bring in goods coupled with the fact that the few cargo flights coming and going out of the airport do so at cut-throat freight charges.
For instance, he disclosed freight forwarders have incurred a lot of losses at the export section of the Airport as some foodstuffs meant for export have already gone bad because there was no flight to airlift them.

He said: “If you go to the export section, you will see that some foodstuffs have gone bad because there was no flight. For example, South African Airways (SAA) used to be a regular flight and it airlifted most of these foodstuffs to South Africa, but now it has not resumed flights, so most of them are spoilt.
“The export shed is overloaded and the few airlines that are operating the freights are so high now. You cannot blame those airlines because they have to break even; they have to increase their freights a bit so that they can continue to be in business. They are also taking advantage of the situation. It’s not really easy.”

He however, expressed gratitude to Ethiopian Airlines (ET) saying that it had been  a relief to the forwarder as the Airline still runs its daily cargo flights.

He pointed out that the increase in air freight was impacting negatively on their business and that some of the exporters were discouraged. “When you look at the freight you will pay to export 100kilogramss of cargo from the U.S. you will ask yourself if it is worth it.
“It is seriously affecting freight forwarding business and the importers also if you look at the freights you will pay; assuming from China or India before was $3.5 per kilogram but now some of them pay as much as $10. So you ask how I pay this because presently, we see that the cost of freight now is even higher than the cost of the item you are buying. You ask yourself is it really worth it? So, it has really affected both the import and export seriously,” he explained.

According to him, “it is only the perishable goods that were still coming in now; it is only the choice of flights by importers and exporters. How will you bring them in? That is the issue”.

Continuing, the ANLCA Vice Chairman, noted that COVID-19 had a very great toll on the economy and the freight forwarding cannot be separated from it considering that the business involves going out and coming in.

He reiterated the freight forwarder s have been managing to survive as no passenger flight is operating internationally and the cargo flights that are coming are managing to bring in goods, except for ET.
He explained that ET which has provided a form of succor to the importers is breaking even is because before the lockdown, it moved a lot of cargo from all the hubs in China, Hong Kong and Dubai into its home in Adis Ababa. “So what has actually been sustaining us is that the cargo is not actually coming from China and India but mostly 80 per cent of the cargoes ET is bringing into the Country are the ones it docked at Addis Ababa for a very long time.
“You know the Chinese markets have not fully opened, Dubai also the same. It is mainly the cargo that ET is picking from Addis Ababa.
“Like Emirates Airlines, before the lockdown, they had two flights every day; one is a cargo flight and the other is a passenger flight.  Even the passenger flights come in with cargo but now Emirates Airlines comes in once or twice a week, same with Air France. It’s been so difficult operating with no passenger flights coming in,” he stressed.
Nwosu disclosed that what had been keeping the airports going was actually informal trade, saying that most of them were not licensed Customs importers and for them to bring in something they have to travel. “Most of them travel to Dubai, China, U.K. in personal ground and then bring in things but now that nobody is travelling again how can they bring in things?” he queried.

Therefore, Nwosu while lauding the federal government at its effort to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 also urged them to look at other countries to take a cue on what to do.

Noting that the challenge is complex and global, he said Nigeria was however, not carrying out enough tests to ascertain the level of spread hence other countries do not believe Nigerian government’s statics on the number of people infected in the Country.
“I know that COVID will come and go but if it continues like this it will be terrible. I don’t know how we will survive it. Most countries have not opened their airspace and now Nigeria is listed among countries that are barred from entering into EU countries because of the level of the pandemic here, like U.S. is part of it. Most of them don’t believe our figures. They feel we are not testing enough; that when we are testing enough, we will have more than what we are telling the world. The issue of COVID is the more you test the more you discover people who have it,” he explained.

Commenting on ANLCA’s establishment of a Committee to check corruption, Nwosu simply said that there is need for both the Customs officials and Clearing agents to rid themselves of corruption.

His words: “If you remember the visit of Controller General of Customs, he said Customs should purge themselves and that agents should purge themselves. And I always tell people that Customs cannot tell any agent that he is corrupt. They cannot do that. How corrupt is an agent? And when you say somebody took his consignment out of the ports, were you sleeping? Is it possible? Because when you look at some of these issues you would be wondering. See Customs will always go around indicting themselves.”

Photo:  Comrade Udeagha Nwosu

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