Police teargas protesting clearing agents at Lagos Airport

Police fired teargas yesterday to disperse protesters at the cargo area of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos as the crisis between foreign airlines and Nigerian clearing and forwarding agents entered day eight.

The protesters, in their thousands, stormed the cargo terminal ?of the Lagos airport in a bid to have an administrative fee charged by foreign airlines cancelled. They said the fee is illegal and not charged anywhere else in the world.

“When goods are sent to us from foreign countries, all fees are paid to the airlines. It is illegal for them to collect another fee from us just to hand us the documents,” Rotimi Ojo Olaifa , a clearing agent with Admair Agencies Nigeria Limited.

He said aside for paying ‘normal’ fees to Customs, FAAN and other agencies, foreign airlines have been collecting between N30 and N35 per kilo for any consignment.

“We want them to stop charging such illegal fees,” Olaifa said.

The protesters carried placards that read “foreign airlines, stop illegal fees”; “foreign airlines, stop milking Nigerians” and “We say no to illegal charges”.

The protesters moved from their secretariat at the cargo area of the airport and staged a protest at the Customs office.

Addressing journalists at the airport, National President of ANLCA, Olayiwola Shittu, said that the strike had been called off after a closed-door meeting with stakeholders at NAHCO.

He, however, insisted that members of the union would no longer pay the charges, which he described as arbitrary, and warned that any attempt to further impose the charges on its members would be resisted.

Shittu stated that NCAA had waded into the matter and had assured that the foreign airlines would comply with the international best practices in the sector.

He alleged that the ‘illegal’ collection had been on for long, and that the practice would no longer be tolerated by members.

The ANCLA leader stated that the charges varied according to airlines, noting that not all foreign carriers were involved in the collection.

His words: “The foreign airlines have been using Nigerians to commit scams by collecting money illegally. They collect money under the guise of documentation on a daily basis, and this money runs into several billions of naira daily.”