COVID-19: Licenced Customs Agents Tackle SAHCo, NAHCo Over Payment Of Demurrage

 

…No Going Back SAHCo Insists

… As ANLCA Appeals To FAAN, SGF To Intervene

 

The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos Chapter has frowned at the insistence by the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) PLC and the Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) PLC  that ANLCA members must  pay demurrage on cargo  that were brought in during the lockdown necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic

The association in a statement on Sunday signed by its Secretary, Mr. Emmanuel Njoku, described the action of SAHCo and NAHCo as a violation of the Federal Government’s directives on the lockdown of Lagos, Ogun and Abuja during the period.

Njoku informed in the statement that when its members returned to work on May 4, 2020, following the easing of the lockdown, NAHCo and SAHCo managements insisted that the agents must pay demurrage for shipments affected by the lockdown.

Njoku stated that the Federal Government had given approval for clearance of essential materials and vaccines as regards to COVID-19 pandemic.

He further explained that its members at the seaport did not not pay for demurrage during the period, and wondered why they would be compelled to pay such at the airport, when the order for the lockdown was not from ANLCA.

Njoku emphasised that despite the ease on the lockdown by the government, its members have not commence work due to the crisis caused by the two ground handling companies in the sector.

He called on FAAN to intervene in the crisis, just as NPA did in the Maritime sector, wondering why FAAN has not showed any interest in taking a cue from its counterpart in maritime despite being aware of the crisis, alleging that rather, the agency was more concerned about the collection of its N7.20k per kilo for every shipment through the sector.

“While the airport cargo section work is not going on for a week now after the lockdown have been lifted because the two ground handling companies are requesting freight forwarders to pay demurrage for shipments that were affected by the lockdown.

“Hence this question; we operate an open market where the same importers who use the seaport are still the same importers who use the airport cargo and these goods arrive at the same market as their final destination.

“The goods from the seaport never paid demurrage, while NAHCo Aviance PLC and SAHC PLC want the goods from the airport cargo to pay demurrage within the same lockdown regime,” he said.

Njoku appealed the Chairman Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, to interpret the idea behind the total lockdown of the airport cargo except for Covid-19 essential materials during the period, calling on the Federal Government to prevail on the two ground handling companies to shift ground.

But in a swift reaction, the Managing Director, SAHCo, Mr. Basil Agboarumi, stated that the ground handlers would not give waivers to the Customs agents and that there was no going back on the payment of demurrage.

He noted that unlike the Maritime sector, where the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) absorbed some waivers by giving credit notes to terminal operators, the reverse was the case in aviation industry, where either the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) or the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) refused to do the same for ground handling companies.

According to him, FAAN and NCAA did not give any waiver to the ground handlers during the period, adding that t just like the ground handling companies; the Customs licenced agents must pay all charges 100 per cent.

Speaking, Agboarumi explained that within the period, SAHCo’s revenues dropped by 90 per cent, adding that no fewer than 4,000 direct employments are given out by the two ground handling companies.

According to him, “The Aviation industry is bearing the brunt of COVID-19. Throughout the period of the lockdown, and as the airports and airspace are shutdown apart from approved flights, the ground handlers maintained operations throughout  in the handling and delivery of essential cargo as released by Nigerian Customs Service in line with the laid down procedures of Government. We have done this irrespective of materially increased costs; including hazard allowances, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and others. We have also maintained all infrastructure, power generating and security required to keep all cargo in our custody safe and secure irrespective of the lockdown and mounting expenses like rent and service recovery charge due to FAAN. All these costs, whether standard or ad-hoc were borne by the handlers.

He continued, “Ground handlers employ over 4,000 Nigerians directly and impact hundreds of thousands directly and indirectly, we have lost over 90 per cent of our revenue and have material cash crunch, we are unable to meet our staff salaries going forward, neither are we able to meet other obligations.”

 

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