By Gboyega Oni
A labour dispute may soon ensue at Port and Terminal Multiservices Limited (PTML) as a coalition of freight forwarders is threatening to march on the terminal at Tincan Island Port, Lagos, Nigeria to demand an end to illegal collection of port access card fees from customs agents by the management of the terminal in the last 10 years.
The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) stated this in a press statement made available to PortNews in Lagos.
NAGAFF however charged the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Customs Service and Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) to prevail on PTML to stop the collection of the fees which, it said, has run into several billions of Naira. It noted that it would mobilize the coalition to march on the organization to seek redress if the government establishments fail to stop PTML management to end the fraud.
NAGAFF leadership, who said it had complained to the government agencies about the negative impact of the fees on Ease of Doing Business policy, said PTML has constituted itself as government and willfully and flagrantly disobeyed the government policy on cargo policy and charges fees not recognised by the law.
“The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) may lead a coalition of Freight Forwarders and Licensed Customs Agents Associations to stop the seeming fraud at the Port and Terminal Multiservices Ltd (PTML) occasioned by illegal collection of access card fees in their terminal. It is on record that NAGAFF had severally complained to the Nigerian Ports Authority and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), that the policy on ease of doing business is not being appreciated, going by the expectation of stakeholders.
“The concept of ease of doing business is targeted at removal of human element barriers against smooth clearance of cargo out of Customs control. It is also primarily made to create a high level of awareness on port orders and regulations. It is most unfortunate and regrettable that value is not being added to that effect as envisaged. In a situation wherein PTML may have become a Government of its own in our ports administration is most unfortunate and sad.
“And for the emphasis, how can PTML management impose fees on freight agents authorised by law to have access to terminals in the course of carrying out their legitimate businesses. And for the avoidance of doubts, the Hon. Minister of Transport, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Ameachi, had signed into effect and directed that access into the ports terminal for the Freight Forwarders requires CRFFN identification supported by the Nigerian Ports Authority approval. It is to our knowledge that it is only NPA that can collect administrative charge for the issuance of port passes. It is therefore to the contrary that a terminal operator should impose an illegal charge with regard to access into the port. In reality what PTML management is doing is like asking lawyers to pay fees before they could enter court room.
“The contract terms of the terminal operators does not include or envisage such imposition. It is therefore our opinion that the management of Nigerian Ports Authority and or the commercial regulator agency of the Government should immediately initiate an action to recover all illegal monies collected from the defenceless Port Users and Freight Agents in particular, by the PTML management ever since it commenced the illegal collection. It is our expectation forthwith that the Enforcement Unit of Nigerian Ports Authority and Nigerian Shippers’ Council should move in to dismantle the illegal fees being collected by PTML about 10years ago.
“It is also the expectation of the coalition of Freight Agents under the control and regulation of Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) to engage the management of PTML to respect the laws governing our country. This press release may be the 1st and last notice to the PTML management team because our country is not a banana republic,” NAGAFF warned.