COVID- 19: NAGAFF Supports FG’s effort to curb spread
*Wants 21 days waiver on demurrage
*Warns Shipping Lines, Terminal Operators on exploitation of freight forwarders with arbitrary charges
(By Udeme Clement):
In line with the policy of the Federal Government to curb spread of deadly coronavirus in the country, the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), has called on all freight forwarders to observe strictly precautionary measures announced so far by the authorities.
NAGAFF made its position known in a press release signed by the Secretary General of the Association, Mr DIPO OLAYOKU, and made available to news men.
According to him, the decision taken by NAGAFF formed part of the resolutions reached in a meeting of the management held at National Headquarters, Apapa, Lagos, yesterday.
The document explained, “NAGAFF specifically advised freight forwarders to observe the principle of social distancing by avoiding over – crowded places, maintain a distance of two feet away from the other person, avoid persons sneezing or coughing, washing of hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds, and to maintain a high level of personal hygiene at all times. Hand sanitizers should be acquired and used by those who can afford them”
More so, the umbrella body of Freight Forwarders in Nigeria reminded its members of their strategic position on International Trade and revenue generation for the Government, which forbids them from shutting down completely, but at the same time, their safety should be paramount, if they must continue to function effectively and efficiently even after the scourge must have gone.
The document stated, “For this reason, NAGAFF management is urging freight forwarders to observe all the safety measures mentioned above, also endeavour to remain indoors, transact their businesses online, (where possible) but should only come out when it becomes absolutely necessary to transact their businesses at the Ports. Other freight forwarders who don’t have any serious thing to do outside should remain indoors, to help in the efforts by the government to check the spread of the disease in our dear country.”
NAGAFF used the occasion to call on Shipping Companies, Terminal Operators and other government agencies involved in port activities to upgrade their systems such that interactions with them could be done online, so as to reduce human contacts in their operations.
The statement added, “By so doing, the spread of this deadly disease would be drastically checked in our country.
“The Association believes that even in times of emergency like this, the interest of freight forwarders should always be strictly protected. As such, we call on Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) and Government to ensure that Shipping Lines, Terminal Operators do not exploit freight forwarders through arbitrary charges, tariff and demurrage. Towards this end, we want the Government to make a categorical statement that will allay the fears of Freight Forwarders, that they would not bear the brunt of likely effect of delay in cargo clearance, which is bound to occur in this time of National emergency.
“The Transport Ministry should declare a ‘force majeure’ for at least 21 days in which demurrages should be waived.
“In fulfillment of our obligations to freight forwarders all over the country and stakeholders including Government agencies, while at the same time observing the policy of Government limiting the number of people in a place to 25 people, our National Headquarters will remain open, but with only essential officers in attendance. By so doing, we will be respecting the authority of the Government and also keeping the machineries of our Association running thereby ensuring that our duty to Government on revenue generation is discharged.
“We use this medium to commend the Government on its efforts so far in the fight against COVID- 19, and urged it not to spare any legitimate efforts in checking the spread. The Government should not relent in its efforts at further sensitizing people on the need to realize the danger in not adhering to the directives that have been given out. The Government should make sure that all directives are strictly enforced to make Nigerians adhere to these directives.
“Our appeal however is that Government should always consider interest of the masses in whatever it is doing in this very difficult time. However, we hope the Government will look at the positive side of this situation in its future endeavours. To us at NAGAFF, the current situation has opened our eyes to the need to improve our health facilities to be able to withstand this type of stress, which our health infrastructure is going through now.
“Finally, we call on Nigerians to support the Government in this time of National emergency in the interest of our country, by observing all precautionary measures announced by health experts. Nigerians should avoid any action that could hinder efforts to combat the disease. We implore those who, in one way or the other, might have been exposed to the risk of COVID-19 to either self – isolate for 14 days or get in touch with the nearest health facilities.
We are fully convinced that with “I- CAN – DO” spirit of Nigerians, COVID – 19 will soon be a thing of the past in our dear Country.