Freight forwarders operating at the nation's airports have raised alarm over plans by the Ministry of Finance and Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to introduce the Pre -Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) and the use of Form ‘M’ as a requirement for cargo clearance at the airports.
The agents raised alarm that the introduction of the two documents as requirements for cargo clearance will not only lead to delays, but will also add exorbitant demurrage charges on cargoes at the airports.
In a letter addressed to the Vice President; Prof Yemi Osinbajo, by the National President Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON) Otunba Frank Ogunojemite, he said unlike the seaports, air cargoes can not afford the luxury of time to undergo the bureaucracy of 'Form M' and PAAR at the airports.
He added that air freight forwarders will now be faced with the challenge of exorbitant charges as storage to the ground handling companies.
According to him, “the Customs, perhaps on the directive of the Federal Ministry of Finance, has concluded plans to stop the current system which is a faster process known as Procedure Code 4900. Customs engaged freight agents at the airports on this development at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) on Friday, last week".
He said although the Finance Ministry may have genuine reasons for the decision, he argued that introduction of PAAR at airports would lead to delays for cargoes that are time-barred.
"While the Finance Ministry may have genuine reasons for this decision, APFFLON states that the introduction of PAAR at airports would lead to gruesome delays for cargoes that are timely.”
Ogunojemite lamented that the air cargo sector is already overburdened having being made to pay charges for storage of consignments to ground handling companies, as Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc and Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) insisted on demurrage charges for goods un-cleared as well as consignments which arrived during the lockdown.
He stated further that, “airport consignments are mostly medical equipment, crucial production materials for manufacturers, essential raw materials as well as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) materials to combat COVID-19 pandemic in the country”
"Unlike the seaports, these air cargoes can not afford the luxury of time to undergo the bureaucracy of 'Form M' and PAAR at the airports.
“Air freight forwarders also face the challenge of exorbitant charges as storage to the ground handling companies with the introduction of 'Form M' and PAAR and the consequent delays.
"Freight agents were unable to access the airports to clear the cargoes as they complied with the Federal Government’s stay at home order for more than one month, yet when we resumed, the ground handling companies still demanded charges for the lockdown period".
"Your Excellency, let us also draw your attention to the fact that both companies also recently increased their charges arbitrarily by 40%, a decision which saw APFFLON drag NAHCO and SAHCO to the Federal High Court, Lagos and the matter is still pending"
"Given the disposition of NAHCO and SAHCO to increase their charges frivolously, the nation, particularly those operating at the airports and dependants on such services, would suffer colossal charges and delays if the use of Form M and PAAR are allowed to prevail at the airports by the end of June 2020"”, the group stressed.
The group, in its recommendation to the Vice President that there should be a review that would streamline challenges with the Code 4900 platform.
The association also urged that there is need to engage stakeholders, particularly freight forwarders on the need to comply with the expeditious 4900 system.