General Manager, Five Star Logistics Terminal, Wolfgang Schneider, has appealed to the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) to prevail on security operatives to stop further harassment of personnel on duty during the lockdown imposed by government to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Schneider, who made the appeal when the Executive Secretary of the Council, Hassan Bello, visited the terminal in Lagos on Wednesday, decried the activities of some security operatives who he said frequently deny personnel access to the port despite proper identification that they are essential workers.
He also said that the failure of commercial banks to open for operation is another challenge affecting its operation as clearing agents are unable to pay for customs duties to enable them take delivery of their consignment.
He said, “In the first few days after the lockdown as announced by the government, only a few staff came. But we also realised that like in any other international port, we need to work because we have to discharge and load vessels and get cargo moving in and out of the country without any problem.
“Apart from having our own identification card, we have been given another additional letter to issue out to workers to make sure that every authority stopping them on the road realise that they are essential port workers. Unfortunately, some of the security operatives are still denying them access while others demand for money in other to pass them through. This is one of the issues we want the council to help point out to the authority to make sure that neither police nor soldiers is stopping this kind of people as long as they have their identity from the company and a confirmation that they are essential workers.
“Although the presidential directive is quite clear, some of the banks are not opened. We need at least half of them to open so that agents can pay customs duty because there is no need to ask the clearing agents who are coming in to clear their cargo when the banks are not open.”
On the directive by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) asking terminal operators to suspend storage charges, Schneider said, “The directive to suspend 21 days is understandable but it has to be defined. It can’t just go like that because people are taking advantage of it. The intention is clear but on the other side, it has to be defined. We are prepared to work as much as we can in order to keep the economy running.”
Responding to the challenges raised, Bello maintained that the ports remain essential services that must remain open at all times including weekends and public holidays despite the lockdown.
“The port is an essential service and people coming to work at the port should be allowed access. We have to keep the port running no matter what happens and how limited the operation is. During this long holiday, starting from Friday to Monday, we have begun coordination. First, we talked with the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), which is eager and ready to work during this period for delivery only. We are also talking with the shipping companies and the Comptroller-General of Customs who is also ready to deploy officers during the holiday.
“We are also talking to the Presidential task team on traffic to make sure that there is ease of movement during the holidays. We are also taking to the Council for the Regulations of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) and the freight forwarders associations so that they can talk to their members that this is an opportunity and we hope they will cooperate with the arrangement,” he said.
Bello promised to engage the Nigerian Police Force, the Lagous Neighbourhood Safety Corp and the Lagos State Government to address the issue.
He added that the Council has been able to get few of the banks working to enable agents make payment for Customs duty just as he appealed to others who are yet to commence operation to do so.