There is total system collapse in Port industry -Says Dr. Aniebonam
*Urges NPA to sanction erring concessionaires on demurrage waiver
By Udeme Clement :
“There is total system collapse in Nigerian port industry. That is why concessionaires operating in the nation’s ports often flout Executive Order coming from the Federal Government without facing serious sanctions “, said the Founder, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, Dr Boniface Aniebonam.
He made these assertions in a chat with Financial Business News correspondent in Lagos.
Dr Aniebonam spoke on the controversies surrounding non-compliance with the directives issued by Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, on suspension of storage and demurrage fees on consignments for initial period of 21 days, effective March 23, 2020, following COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and subsequent lock-down by government.
He said, “You are aware that the COVID-19 pandemic affected economic activities in various sectors including maritime. That prompted NPA as an Agency of government and regulator of the port industry to grant waiver on demurrage.
“Sadly, till now, the concessionaires are yet to fully comply with the directives from NPA”
He went on, “This shows that there is total system collapse in the port industry when it comes to following directives from government.
“How will you describe a situation where an Executive Order from NPA is openly disregarded and nothing is happening?
Any directive by NPA is seen as something coming from the Presidency, because it is an Agency of the Federal Government.”
Responding to questions on the way forward, he said, “NPA should handle issues of non-compliance with its directives as criminal offence because it involves cheating.
“The Authority should do the needful by applying appropriate sanctions to erring concessionaires on this aspect”.
He stressed, “This implies that NPA must take criminal action against the defaulters.
“NPA has a Police Command attached to it. I don’t know what the Authority is waiting for ? Even a civilian has power to arrest and hand over an offender to Police for prosecution”.
Dr Aniebonam who also commended the current NPA Managing Director for working hard to keep the port industry afloat, emphasised the need for the Authority to treat issues of non-compliance with Executive Order, with severe sanctions, for the industry to move forward.
Speaking further, Dr Aniebonam, frowned at incessant cases of deliberate disregard for government directives in the port by some terminal operators, calling on NPA to invoke its powers against the defaulters.
Recall that the Management of NPA directed all terminal operators to suspend terminal storage fees on consignments for an initial period of 21 days effective March 23, 2020.
The Authority further directed terminal operators to extend the suspension for another 14 days, effective April 13, 2020, which expired on April 27, 2020.
However, freight forwarders are saying that these directives have not been fully adhered to till now.