From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
Clearing agents at the nation’s seaports are set for a showdown with shipping lines and terminal operators over their imposition of demurrage and storage charges on cargoes trapped since the EndSars protest began.
Vowing to resist the charges and demanding a refund of all that has been collected so far from some clearing agents, the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) said they would not bear penalty for a fault that was not theirs.
In a letter over the weekend from the National Coordinator of NAGAFF’s 100% Compliance Team, Ibrahim Tanko, which was addressed to all shipping lines and terminal operators, the association warned that any effort to impose demurrage and storage charges on trapped cargoes in the ports would be vehemently resisted.
“Following the ENDSARS protest, which has lasted for over a week now, the NAGAFF 100% Compliance Team wishes to appeal to shipping companies and terminal operators in Lagos not to charge demurrage or storage fees on cargoes trapped inside the ports,” the statement read.
“It has come to our knowledge that some shipping companies and terminal operators have already started charging storage and demurrage fees for this period without consideration for safety of lives and property.
“First consideration world over in any crisis period is security of lives and property. It is most unfortunate that otherwise is the case here and we want to say a BIG NO to that.
“We had expected our shipping companies and terminal operators to show some concern, love, solidarity and pity to the Nigerian youths and to those importers who have lost loved ones or property in this struggle to put Nigeria on the track for good governance. However, this has not been the case.
“On this note, we want to state categorically that NAGAFF 100% Compliance Team will not fold hands and watch members exploited for no fault of theirs. We will resist and even oppose this wickedness by shipping companies and terminal operators.”
Calling on the shipping companies and terminal operators “to refund the fees to those who have already paid with immediate effect,” the association said it would otherwise mobilise other associations, truck owners and port users to “protest against this impunity and block the ports access gates and entrances until our demands are met.”
Similarly, ANLCA Vice President, Kayode Farinto, said that demurrage and storage charges on cargoes trapped in the ports during the period were not expected because “what happened was beyond anybody’s control.
“The protest led to a breakdown of law and order, and the Lagos State Government had to impose movement restriction. Under such circumstances, nobody could come to clear cargoes. Even the ports were shut down.
“If the Nigerian Ports Authority head office in Marina could be touched by hoodlums, then we expect the shipping companies and terminal operators to understand what happened all through last week.
“Any attempt to impose demurrage and storage charges on cargoes trapped in the ports due to this will be resisted. We are going to write the NPA on this, because we won’t pay for what we didn’t cause.”