by Chinedu Eze and Martha Momoh
The freight and forwarding agents under the auspices of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) and the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANCLA) operating at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA, Lagos have appealed to the federal government to re-open the warehouses at the airport for safety and security reasons.
Also, chairman of the Lagos Airport branch of ANCLA, Mr. Alloy Emeka Igwe has appealed to the federal government to re-open the cargo terminal, describing the continued closure of the cargo terminal by the Nigeria customs as insensitive. The warehouses were shut following the recent clash between the Customs clearing agents and Customs officials. Igwe insisted that the crisis that emanated at the airport was not beyond resolution, noting that it is affecting their business.
The clearing agents warned that the inability of the government to re-open the warehouses on or before Friday would give rise to economic and security crisis at the airport and adversely affect business men and women who stake their funds to import goods for the Yuletide business.
NAGAFF president, Airport Chapter, Mr. Olusegun Musa told journalists at the airport that the association has expressed over the action that led to the closure of the warehouses, pointing out that several billions of naira had been lost to the crisis on the side of the agents, ground handlers and even government agencies.
Musa noted that since the crisis ensued last week, the clearing agents had met with the officials of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, (FAAN0 ground handlers and other necessary stakeholders to forestall recurrence.
He emphasised that NAGAFF would use the current development to correct some abnormalities noticed in the system like the delay in cargo clearance mainly caused by inadequate manpower at the warehouses.
He added that the leadership of NAGAFF would also ensure that the airport was more user-friendly to users in terms of crowd control, identification of its members and properly protect the interest of its members. He explained that there are large volumes of perishable goods, which are either going for export or import, but were held up in the warehouses due to the closure.
He added that at present, the apron side of the airport is congested due to the closure and feared that this may lead to a major incident at the apron, adding that pilfering and stealing of the cargoes could not also be ruled out as people gain entrance into the tarmac through several openings within the airport.
He noted that the only way the sector could move forward was for all players especially in the cargo clearing and forwarding business to work together as a team, and assured that the cargo business would be run professionally.
He said: “We cannot actually quantify what we have lost in terms of naira and kobo. Let’s look at it from two phases, we are looking at the invasion of customs at that particular day, they damaged some cars of our members, offices bungled and they lost huge sum of money. In operations, we have lost multi-millions on our own side, FAAN has lost multi-millions and the Customs too have lost multi-millions.
Igwe of ANCLA said about N50 million is lost daily, adding that continued closure of the terminal would continue to affect all the business in the cargo area, including the handling companies, clearing agents, FAAN and the importers.
lgwe said the clash broke out following the rough handling of the Customs Area Comptroller (CAC) by clearing agents who had refused to allow the CAC access to the warehouses at the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCo) premises located at the Lagos airport command was not carried by licensed clearing agent alleged that some miscreants could have taken advantage of the crisis between them and Customs personnel to break law and order.
He decried the action of the paramilitary men that were deployed to the cargo area of the airport who manhandled clearing agents by shooting into the air, which led to some of the clearing agents sustaining injuries.
Source: This Day Live (Nigeria) - http://bit.ly/1FG6Qwz