The Lagos State Shippers Association, on Friday said it would direct its members to divert their cargoes to Ghana as the cargo sheds at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, had remained shut.
The association’s President, Mr Jonathan Nicol, who made the assertion in Lagos, said the sheds had been shut for nine days.
He said: “We (shippers) are moving some of our cargo to Accra, Ghana, as the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc (NAHCO) and Skyway Aviation Handling company Ltd. (SAHCOL) sheds remained shut”.
Nicol said the shippers (importers and exporters) were taking this stand because goods stocked in the sheds were attracting huge demurrage and they (shippers) could not quantify how much loss they had been incurring.
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) had on Monday said the cargo sheds of the airport should remain shut until terminal operators complied with new operational procedures that would not threaten national security and revenue.
The closure of the sheds was based on the confrontation between the customs and the licensed agents.
The Customs Area Comptroller of the Airport Command, Mr Tajudeen Olanrewaju, said government had directed officials to identify and allow passage of perishable, medical and diplomatic goods, which had remained trapped due to the crisis.
He said the NCS had the power to deal with any violator or saboteur who threatened national security and collection of revenues for government.
Olarenwaju said that government would continue to keep the cargo warehouse closed because the clearing agents had demonstrated that they were not ready to comply with regulations.
The comptroller said that agreements signed with the agents in the past had failed as they had consistently violated the rules that restricted their access to some parts of the cargo terminal.
“It has become increasingly insecure to carry out businesses at the cargo section of the airport because the agents have through their collective action continued to threaten national security.
“The agents have displayed lack of capacity to enforce the new regulations in sensitive areas where cargo is kept at the airport.
“The warehouse remains shut until the agents and terminal managers show capacity to operate without threat to security,” he said.
Nicol added: “The shippers are losing so much, especially at this time that we have supply contracts to our various clients.
“We appeal to the Nigeria Customs Service and the freight forwarders to resolve the issues at stake.
“The cargo in the sheds do not belong to the freight forwarders, they belong to the shippers.
“The shippers have no quarrel with customs. Shippers are not finding it easy with our cargo caged in the sheds for no fault of ours,” he said.
“Whatever has happened between customs and the freight forwarders is part of human error; so it can be resolved.
“Whatever is the problem between the freight forwarders and the customs should not affect the nation’s economy.”
Nicol recalled that few days ago, they got out of the nine-day strike at the Apapa port and now going through another strike at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport.
He said that as the shippers were trying to get out of the problems of the Apapa strike, they were still paying demurrages.
“We cannot afford to continue to do business in a volatile atmosphere that cannot be determined.
“So, we are moving some of our cargo to Accra,” Nicol said.
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