This is not the right time for air-ground handling operators to increase their charges or begin a collection of new rates. Such an increase, considering the dire economic situation in the country, will lead to double charges, loss of cargo and jobs, and inflation, which may even worsen the poor state of many Nigerians.
A seasoned customs licensed agent and one-time Chairman of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Airport Chapter, Ikeja, Chief Lere Ogundele stated this in an interview with PortNews in Lagos, on Monday and cautioned the federal government and the air-ground handlers against the increase and collection.
Chief Lere Ogundele said that the situation in the country presently does not warrant any increase or collection of new charges as over 50 percent of cargo had been lost to neighbouring countries because of excessive charges by the handlers and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Collection or charging new rates will lead to double charges. It has become a norm that every year air-ground handlers consider an increase. Why? As a result of their excessive, we have lost a lot of cargo, 50 percent; many importers have diverted their cargo to our neighbouring countries. The situation now does not warrant such an increase,” said Ogundele.
Calling on the appropriate government agencies not to accede to the demands of the operators, Ogundele advised the operators to drop the idea as various charges they collect on storage, handling, etc, are enough for them.
The ANLCA chieftain said it is misgiving for the air-ground handlers to justify the increase in their rates because airlines have done the same. He noted that airlines have lost their seat capacity overwhelmingly because of the COVID-19 pandemic as an increase in their fare was justifiable but not the ground handlers.
“Ground handlers cannot compare themselves with airlines whose operations have been badly affected by the various COVID-19 pandemic restrictions globally. The airlines have lost their seat capacity. An increase in airfares, to some extent, is justifiable but not cargo handling operations,” said Ogundele.
He called on the two leading operators – SAHCO and NAHCO – to improve their cargo delivery instead of hammering on rates increase all the time.
It would be recalled that Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO), Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCCO) and other members of Air Ground Handling Association of Nigeria had earlier planned to commence the collection of new handling charges until the National Assembly stopped the collection due to the protest by some stakeholders particularly airlines who felt that the new rates might impede their cargo operations.
To press home their demand, the ground handlers a couple of weeks back threatened to embark on an industrial strike. The strike, according to information, was jettisoned because of the pressure from the government on the operators to reconsider their stands.