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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
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.
“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.”