Nigerian Shippers Council To Be Scrapped By FG?

There are strong indications that the Federal Ministry of Transport may be considering transmuting one of its department into becoming a commercial regulator for the Nigerian maritime industry, even as there have been reports of the ministry considering a total scrapping of the regulatory agency presently clamoring for the responsibility; the Nigerian Shippers Council.

This revelation was made known yesterday at a one day ‘stakeholder’s clinic on arbitrary shipping charges’ by a member of the Presidential Monitoring Committee on Port Reforms, Prince Olayiwola Shittu. The program was hosted by the Nigerian Shippers Council in collaboration with Akabogu and Associates.

Prince Shittu revealed that at a top brass meeting he had attended in Abuja on Monday, there were plans of the ministry of transport bringing one of its departments to act as a commercial regulator for the ports because the Nigerian Shippers Council is presently perceived as a toothless bulldog.

Speaking, Prince Shittu who is also the president of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Custom Agent (ANLCA) said that “the problem of the port is defying solutions as a result of the ministry of transport interfering in the processes that will solve the problems of the port, this also came to the fore yesterday when we discovered in a meeting in Abuja that all efforts to make the shippers council a commercial regulator in the industry today is being thwarted by the civil servants in the ministry of transport”

Continuing he said “The ministry also came with a decision that a department in the ministry will serve as the regulator for the industry, imagine them seating in Abuja and regulating charges paid in Lagos, it is the government itself that is making it difficult for us to get to where we are going to”

“All the laws made have always made sure that shippers’ council does not have the teeth to bite and the icing on the cake is the recommendation that it should be scrapped” Shittu revealed.

The stakeholders’ clinic which held today was chaired by a chairman frontline maritime consultant, Otunba Kunle Folarin was declared open by the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Capt. Adamu Biu.

The clinic which was well attended by a cross section of maritime players including, freight forwarders, maritime lawyers, importers and exporters, however did not have any representations from the shipping companies and terminal operators.

Stakeholders at the clinic took turns to condemn the arbitrary and duplicated charges that are being levied on them at the port by the terminal operators and shipping companies, even as they have also called on the federal government to empower the Nigerian Shippers Council to become the commercial regulator of the ports.

In her address, Shippers’ Council’s Director of Commercial Services, Mrs Dabney Shall-Holma said that the council is set to take the bull by the horn in terms of checkmating arbitrary charges by shipping companies and terminal operators as enshrined in the Act setting up the agency.

She confirmed that the organization has already benchmarked all charges that ought to be collected by all shipping companies and terminal operators at the ports and that this was carried out with the knowledge of all the parties concerned. “This time I think something is going to be done” she assured

She charged Nigerian shippers and their representatives to come to the council with any information on Cargo Data Declarations (CDD) as all shippers in Africa are seating together to criminalize the use of the tool by shipping companies.

Identifying some of the arbitrary charges that are currently being collected at the port, National President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Mr. Eugene Nweke in his presentation itemized them saying “the continuous paying of the 7% port charge is arbitrary, paying of VAT is a duplication and is exploitative, Terminal Handling charges which was formally N35, 000 is now N60”

Eugene said that the transfer charges which is as a result of the transferring of containers is an imposition and a criminal act committed by terminal operators and shipping companies, “we even pay for their lack of holding bays and system breakdowns” he said

Resolutions of the meeting was read out by the chairman, Otunba Kunle Folarin that freight forwarders must synergize and speak in one voice through the Council for the Regulations of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) and the shippers council has to be empowered as the commercial regulator of the ports.

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