Customs agents and persistent threats of strike

It has almost become like a periodical; quite predictable. That is the frequence of threats of strike by Customs agents (also known as freight forwarders or Customs brokers) in Nigeria. These threatened strike they would euphemismically refer to as withdrawal of services, unless their particular demands at a particular time are met.
Yet again, there are threats of strike by Customs agents in the air, with the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), respectively, having threatened to withdraw their services from the terminal of Tincan Island Container Terminal Limited (TICT) at the Tin-Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC), Apapa, Lagos. SHIPS & PORTS DAILY had last week sighted separate statements signed by the National Presidents of the respective associations, and addressed to the Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Maritime Services, Mr. Leke Oyewole, in which both organisations warned of their intentions to turn their back on the terminal.
It would be recalled that the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Maritime Services had recently penultimate Wednesday toured the Lagos ports.
National President of ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, in his own statement noted that despite the presidential aide’s directive to the management of TICT, during his tour of the terminal, to effect changes in their operations for efficient cargo delivery, nothing has been done to that effect. Shittu had further stated that as a result of this, his members, with effect from next week, will no longer render their services to the terminal. Shittu had stated: “Following your recent visit on the problems at the port, the biggest culprit TICT has made a turn for the worse. Your directives, documented, have been ignored. Their scanning traffic has further dropped to barely a 100 containers as against 300 due to lack of space and equipments. A new ploy of extortion was deployed in collusion with shipping companies which has tensed up the agitations in the port. Effective next week (this week), the TICT will be shut down as freight forwarders will withdraw their services.”

The ANLCA Tin-Can Chapter had also issued a seven-day ultimatum to the terminal, demanding from the management, with effect from Wednesday, 18th September, 2013, to Tuesday, 25th September, 2013, to “reverse the issue of delivery order as a requirement for examination booking’’, or risk the members’ wrath.
On NAGAFF’s part, the National President, Chief Eugene Nweke, had accused TICT of allegedly disrespecting the presidential directive, even as he also threatened the withdrawal of his association’s services from the terminal. Nweke stated: “It’s a global assertion that Brownfield FDI is made with an explicit intention of not doing much to improve the productive capacity of the public enterprise leased to them. We believes that it is the duty of the government to impose on the investors a structured Performance requirement and to enact an antitrust law to guide FDI activities or else private sector monopoly thrives unabated even where a Presidential directive appear not to be honored by an operator like TCIT. Any act to disrespect the directive of the SSAP is regrettable. Besides lack of space and adequate equipment at TCIT they may have in collusion with shipping companies deployed new exploitative practices which have heated up agitations within the port operations at TCIT. We may withdraw our services in due course. The corruption level at the ports is most worrisome equally because it is now at red lane indicator.”
While we firmly believe that protests are a means to an end, incessant threats of strikes by Customs agents achieve little, but only heat up the system unnecessarily, impacting negatively on all stakeholders.
We, therefore, recommend that Customs agents attune their minds to the attractions of dialogue and peaceful resolution of grievances, no matter how vexatious these issues are in their opinions.