Importers groan as agents struggle to clear cargo backlog at Lagos airport

Several consignments of imported goods are still trapped at the NAHCO Aviance shed of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) cargo terminal, one week after the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) reopened the facility.

SHIPS & PORTS DAILY gathered authoritatively that officials of the NCS and the shed operator are having a field day as they cash in on the chaotic scene that has since enveloped the terminal.

Chairman, MMIA Chapter of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Aloysius Igwe, said 75 per cent of the cargoes at the terminal remain uncleared because the two ground handlers – Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc (NAHCO) and the Skyway Aviation Handling Ltd. (SAHCOL) – were claiming demurrages for the goods not cleared within the period of the terminal’s closure.

Igwe said that only 25 per cent of goods had been cleared so far by the companies, stressing that the stringent measures put in place by the Customs was slowing down progress at the terminal.

He said: “Unlike in the past where these goods would have been cleared almost immediately with assistance from clearing agents, it is no longer the same.

“In fact, some goods now spend extra days in the warehouses of the ground handlers due to insufficient personnel and the new measures put in place by the customs.

“Also, just few days ago, the management of the two ground handling companies threatened to impose additional charges on goods not cleared within a specific period.

“How can we clear the goods when the personnel on ground are not capable of discharging their duties as expected?’’

A clearing agent, AlhajiOludotun said: “The problem started with the NAHCO people because they refused to waive demurrage for the days the terminal was shut by Customs. They insist on collecting the full demurrage from us and apart from that, I think because of what happened, Customs has become very strict as we are now required to pay more than three times the amount that we are ordinarily supposed to pay to clear our goods.”

An irregular importer, Israel Abighe, who spoke to SHIPS & PORTS DAILY on his plight, blamed the officials of NAHCO Aviance for the delays experienced in the clearing of cargo at the terminal since its reopening by the Comptroller General of Customs, DikkoAbdullahi on Wednesday last week.

He said NAHCO officials are finding it difficult to cope with the volume of cargo that piled up at the terminal while its closure lasted.

He said, “Like me now, I have my daughter’s wedding coming up this weekend and all the things that we need to use are still trapped inside the terminal. My agent has been on the queue since Monday and still no hope of clearing the goods. And the amount we are to pay now is like five times what I was initially told.”

He appealed to the MMIA Customs Controller to intervene and ensure prompt his of his cargo so as to “safe me from embarrassment”.

However, NAHCO’s General Manager, Corporate Communications and Branding, TayoAjakaye, denied any planned increase in fees on the cargoes by the ground handling company.

He also insisted that the ground handler had enough personnel to accelerate cargo clearance within its warehouse.

Ajakaye explained that NAHCO, about a few weeks ago, employed 40 additional staff who were on training during the period of the closure and have now resumed work in cargo services.

He said 30 of the new workers were deployed to China Bulk Breaking, five to General Bulk Breaking and another five to Export Warehouse.

He added that these were in addition to the members of staff who work in those units before the closure.

On the dumurrage claim, Ajakaye denied additional fee by NAHCO, saying that for all shipments still in the terminal there was no demurrage paid.

“These shipments are not in our cargo warehouse yet. For shipments that have been tallied and are in our warehouse before the closure, there would be no demurrage charged.

“For shipments whose documentation was completed and who have customs exit paper before the closure, no demurrage is charged.

“Only those shipments that have entered our warehouse and not yet tallied at the time of the closure would attract payment of demurrage.

“Even at that, of the total 16 days, eight days would be waived. However the waiver would only be given on the review of the cases on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

The cargo terminal was shut on 19 November after some persons alleged to be touts went on rampage at the terminal. Apart from disrupting operations at the facility, they also pelted the former Customs Area Controller, Tajudeen Olanrewaju with stones and sachets of water.

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