Panic grips importers as agent’s ultimatum to shut seaports looms

Following the decision by clearing agents under the aegis of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) to withdraw its services from the ports at a yet to be mentioned date following the hike in import duty rate which currently stands at N331 to a dollar, importers who own many of the cargoes have resorted to panic cargo clearance to avoid paying millions of naira in demurrages if their cargoes get trapped inside the port in the aftermath of a port shutdown.

The National President of ANLCA, Olayiwola Shittu, had stated over the weekend that with the hike in the import duty rate to N331 to a dollar, the National Executive Council of ANLCA will be meeting very soon to decide on a date when total withdrawal of the association’s services will be announced.

Speaking with Nigerian Tribune in an exclusive chat, an importer, Nwogbu Akaeze, explained that the directive by the ANLCA to shut down the seaports has forced him and some of his colleagues into panic cargo clearance.

“You know ANLCA has the largest members of agents clearing cargoes at the seaports for us importers. For somebody like me that doesn’t bring in too many containers, it is important I clear all my cargoes remaining in the ports since I patronise some of these agents.

“It will be foolhardy for me to relax when I read in the papers that they are set to meet to decide when to embark on strike.”

When asked why the panic cargo clearance since their cargoes are safe in the ports, he explained that, “yes they are safe in the ports, but demurrage will rise if they spend longer days in the ports.

“That is the situation we always find ourselves in this part of the world. Once there is a reason for those containers to stay longer in the ports than usual, the terminal operators collect demurrages even when they know the fault is not of our making.

“Therefore to avoid paying demurrages that could run into millions of naira, it is very important that I look for how my cargoes will exit the ports before the close of next week.”

The ANLCA President had said that the association condemned in totality the monetary policy that led to the collapse of the maritime industry. He frowned at the import regime of fixing the foreign exchange rate at N331 to the dollar.

“There should have been a deliberate effort to save Nigerian importers from the debilitating effect of fixing the foreign exchange in calculating the import duty,” Shittu explained.

He noted that it was condemnable to force Nigerians to open form ‘M’ for imports at N197 to the dollar and now force them to pay N331 after the goods had been shipped into the country.