Mr. Kayode Farinto is the Vice President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and member, Governing Council of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN). In this interview with Oluyinka Onigbinde, he speaks on the plight of freight forwarders in taking advantage of the Demurrage Waiver that was granted by the Nigerian Ports Authourity, and other sundry issues.
What's the update on the demurrage waiver feud between freight forwarders, terminal operators and shipping companies?
The only thing I can tell you is that Nigeria is a lawless country, do we really have an authority that people can respect, all our efforts to make sure that during the COVID-19 period (as special as it is) that importers are not exploited is failing, due to the fact that there is no command structure. When I say command structure, I mean there is no authority to be respected in the maritime industry. Nigerian Shippers’ Council will give instructions; the shipping association will fail to respect it.
NPA gave instruction with letters and promissory note; that whatever the terminal operators lost will be given to them in form of credit note, this has not been respected, just because the elites of this country have taken the jugular of the economy.
The terminal operators actually constitute nuisance now by forming the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) to exploit Nigerians, dehumanize Nigerians, flout Nigerians laws and again we are in a situation where it is very unfortunate that government is not looking this way.
If I were to be the President of Nigeria today, a lot of licenses would have been revoke because it was a presidential directive that during this COVID-19 period, Nigeria importers should not be charged with storage and demurrage fees. But what do we have, we have a situation where terminal operators are just looking at what to implement in the policy with the exception of PTML, Port &Cargo and to a larger extent Five Star logistics and probably APMT, APMT had to comply after our boys closed down the terminal.
But STOAN President actually said clearing agents failed to take advantage of the demurrage-free period?
She is the problem we have in this industry, Vicky Haastrup now dishes out instructions to the terminal operators as if they are her boys and they dare not flout the instructions.
We are going to come out heavily against them by writing petition to the federal government to look at the activities of STOAN and Shipping Association of Nigeria (SAN) based on the fact that it is anti-government, vis-a-vis the fact that it is exploitative and also the fact that they are becoming too powerful for this country, if it continues likes this; in the next five years we are going to run into serious trouble.
And for some of them that their licenses will be expiring next year, we are also going to write to the Federal Government, the BPE and NPA to carry us along before the licensed are renewed because issues like this needs to be put into consideration, because whatever you do now is a sabotage to the economy of this country and you cannot be a saboteur and you want to still be exploiting us, honestly we are going to come against them in a legal way.
What are you doing as regards the plight of your members at the airport chapter, those whose goods have been trapped at the airport since the pronouncement on the lock down?
It was an oversight from the federal government because when the issue of seaport returning back to work came, nobody thought about the airport.
Thank God, I am a member of the COVID 19 Task force committee, I mentioned it in our meeting that all the things we have been doing are centered on seaport and that nothing has been done at the airport.
I have also notified the Registrar and also the chairman of the CRFFN and FAAN as well, but it is unfortunate however to mention that the MD of FAAN has proven to be very elusive; all his lines have been off, he has not been reachable and people are there suffering.
Even though SACHOL offered about 60 to 70 percent waiver to our members, but our members believed it is their right to have the 100 percent waiver.
The promising note credit that was given to the terminal operators at the seaport was not given to the handlers at the Airport. So we are still discussing and we hope something good will comes out soon.
You are a member of the CRFFN governing council, can you list some of the achievements of the council in the last two years?
Yes, we have achieved a lot, when we came on board we met a lot of project unaccounted for by the last registrar, a committee was set up to harmonise this and monitor the projects of the council.
We also divided ourselves into various committees and we were able to harmonize various freight forwarding association, if you look at the various freight forwarding associations, you will discover that discordant tune is very low we carry along all the presidents of the various freight forwarding association for collective responsibility and so many other things I cannot start enumerating because time will not permit, but I know we have achieved a lot, last year when we celebrated one year, the chairman of the council highlighted so many things that we have achieved, I did not know we had actually achieved that much, but I know we have achieved a lot.
You are a member of the COVID-19 Task Force, what are some of the things you have put in place to help freight forwarders and to forestall the outspread of the COVID 19 pandemic at the port?
We have done a lot and I can tell you it was not easy immediately the President made that pronouncement, we had a situation where some of our members are being arrested from one police station to the other. Immediately the committee was inaugurated, we insisted that the Commissioner of Police Lagos State must be a member and he became a member, although he was unable to come for meetings, so what we were doing was to have a conference call through zoom and through that we were able to get all the DPOs contact in Lagos and he sent out circular. I also insisted that letters must be sent to the AIG Maritime and the IG of Police and this was done and they also sent letters back to us making sure that freight forwarders had free passage during the Lockdown.
We also liaise with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council and they were very magnanimous that they gave us about 10 buses which we zoned to various areas in the state to convey freight forwarders to Apapa.
I also insisted that the Executive Secretary of Shippers’ Council followed us to all the shipping companies on a daily basis to come and see what our members were going through and honestly I can tell you we are going to achieve more during this COVID-19 than before, because as I talk to you now the Executive Secretary has approved to every shipping company a staff to make sure they submit report on a daily basis.
Another thing is that Maersk Line used to have their back end office at India, and that is why it takes four to five days for you to get an information from Maersk, but since the Executive Secretary came to know of this, he insisted that the back end office of Maersk Line be moved from India to a nearest country maybe Burkina Faso or somewhere close; but not India. As a result of that, we achieve a lot of things and that was why Maersk Line was the first shipping company to approve the waiver because they didn't want that to be exposed.