Photo: Deputy Commissioner of Police, Operations, Port AuthorityPolice, Western Command Apapa , Adeleke Taiwo; Mrs Stella Oladiran, Principal Manager Operations, NPA; Barrister Samuel Nwakohu, Registrar CRFFN; DCP Maritime Command, Okoro Julius
The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders(NAGAFF) 100% Compliance Team has given two weeks to the Port Regulators to reschedule another meeting, compelling shipping companies to attend inorder to resolve the issues or face a total withdrawal of service of freight forwarders.
He said, ”I am not happy with today’s meeting because nobo is ready to take our pain. “You can imagine a Registrar of CRFFN inviting the shipping companies and not one of them is here and I noticed that there is power tussle between the CRFFN and the Shippers’ Council. If there is no power tussle, why would the Shippers’ Council invite us for a meeting on Friday and CRFFN is inviting us for a meeting the same Friday?
“But I sent some of our members to represent us there, and the response from there is almost the same thing we got here. The Shippers’ Council were telling us to suspend our action; tha they will get back to us on Monday, that they were going to investigate our allegations and get back to us. Here, they said that they were going to look into our issues and get back to us on Monday. Here, the CRFFN said they will investigate the matter and get back to us and no date was given.
”So, you can see, in my position here, my answer is no but I need to respect the Registrar because they are our regulator so that it will not look as if we disrespected them. That is why I decided to step down our action pending when we hear from them. For now, we are going to suspend our action pentill we hear from them.
“It is a good one because the Police are here. The AIG Maritime is here and the Commissioner of Police, Western Ports is here, so, they will not say that we did not reach out to people. We have tried our best, we have gone through the media but to say whether I am happy or not, my answer is I am not happy because if you go out there, you will see how our members are suffering and you will feel like crying because nobody helps us in this problem that we have. You can imagine the Deputy Commissioner of Police who represented the Commissioner of Police, Western Ports saying that they were aware of all these issues a long time ago but the question is who is to help us?
“Let us give them the benefit of doubt, let us watch them and see but I am telling you that at the end of the day, we will still go back to square one. What is square one? The same withdrawal of service.”
Asked how long they were going to wait for the agencies to get back to them, he said, “For me, Shippers’ Council said that they will get back to us on Monday. CRFFN did not give us a date, for now, I am going to give them two weeks starting from Monday. Let us hear from them.”
Fielding question from Journalists after the meeting, the Registrar of CRFFN, Barr. Samuel Nwakohu appealed to freight forwarders to suspend their intending strike action pending the outcome of the regulators investigations.
Barr. Samuel Nwakohu disclosed that the freight forwarders wrote to the Minister of Transportation through his office and copied him, where they made certain complaints and threatened to withdraw their services within two weeks if their grievances were not addressed by those concerned.
He said, “You know that economic activities in our ports are key to revenue generation in our country. The country cannot afford any disruptions of economic activities in the ports. So, against this background, I looked at it, we held a meeting in my office and we felt that the best thing to do was to invite all the stakeholders from NPA to the Shippers’ Council to ourselves to the complainants, let us address the issues including the shipping companies. Unfortunately, they were not here today but I didn’t want that to stall any preliminary discussions.
“That was why we went and considered each and every issue they raised from their own point of view. We will still have the opportunity to consider those issues from the point of view of the shipping companies. It is not a one day thing like I said, it is a meeting that will require two or three meetings and by the grace of God, we should be able to resolve all the issues and everybody will go home happy.
In a Communique read at the end of the meeting, the Registrar of CRFFN pointed out that it was agreed that the conveners of the meeting, should put in more effort to ensure that the shipping companies attend the next meeting while the freight forwarders suspend their notice for withdrawal of
Highlights of the meeting was a Communique presented by the Registrar of CRFFN, Barrister Samuel Nwakaohu.. It States:
That the conveners of the meeting, in this case, the CRFFN, should put in more effort to ensure that the shipping companies attend the next meeting while the freight forwarders suspend their notice for withdrawal of service pending further engagement with the shipping companies.
“The complainants should pause their intention to withdraw their services pending when we are able to get the shipping companies to join issues with us and address or respond to the issues raised and discussed today.”
It states further that, the convener of the meeting should synergize with NPA, NCS and NSC to strengthen the existing laws that will alleviate some of the challenges highlighted by the freight forwarders. If the laws are there, they should be enforced.. If there are laws which are there and not being enforced, I think they should be enforced but I think these agencies mentioned here should come together, look into these problems and see how they can resolve it. I don’t think that they are very difficult problems at all.
“That the freight forwarders should and must have patience with the emergence of new technology which imposed a short term hiccups but this will gradually fade away as they adjust to the system. That we should embrace new technology notwithstanding the teething challenges and that these new technologies may certainly help in the growth of our businesses.
“It was agreed that charges should not be passed to freight forwarders as a result of network downtime. This, I agree completely but I don’t know how it is going to work. I think it is something we should investigate, I would rather say it was agreed that the issue of network downtime should be addressed and that freight forwarders should not bear the cost if as a result of network downtime should be addressed and that the freight forwarders should not bear the cost if as a result of network downtime, you cannot get result.
“Holding bay was extensively discussed and depletion of freight forwarders’ container deposit. That NPA should look into it and ensure that freight forwarders are not unduly punished for inadequate holding bay because that is what it was, transfer of containers from one terminal to bonded terminal without the consent of the consignee should be looked into as well.
“We should look into the issue of excessive charges on dropping of empty containers. That we should investigate the alleged extortions at the point of dropping empty containers, that these allegations should be investigated and if found to be true, the persons involved should be punished and effort made so that it can be discontinued.
“I think the key thing is to try and get the shipping companies to attend the next meeting because once they are present, we will hear both sides and we will be able to address most of the issues but I am glad we have started the conversation. These preliminary issues have been taken and I can assure you that we will do everything within our powers to bring everybody to the roundtable as soon as possible.”
On the certainty of getting the shipping companies to attend the next meeting on schedule, he, however, said “I can’t give you that assurance but there are people to talk to. We are all regulators, I regulate the freight forwarders, they are here. So, I will either talk to the Nigerian Shippers’ Council or talk to NPA, somebody is in charge of them. So, they will talk to them. We have decided to talk to their regulators to ensure that they will be in the next meeting, then, if they don’t honour my own invitation, they will honour the invitation of their regulator. If they don’t honour the invitation of their own regulator, I will escalate it to the Minister.”
Photo: R>L Bert Okeke, Chief of Staff to the Coordinator;
Chief Tochukwu Ezisi, National President, NAGAFF & stakeholder.