Freight forwarders in the nation’s maritime industry have threatened to drag the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and its service provider; Webb Fontaine to court over alleged consistent server failure that has led to delays in cargo clearance and loss of billions of Naira on demurrages for importers.
Speaking to journalist on Thursday in Apapa, the chairman of Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Importers Exporters Coalition (SNFFIEC); Chief Osita Chukwu said the association will sue the service for continuously causing importers demurrages running into several billions of naira monthly, stating that importers are losing nothing less than N50 billion naira monthly occasioned by the continuous server failure of the Nigeria Customs Service.
Osita lamented that despite pleas by freight forwarders and stakeholders in the maritime industry to have another server provider who will assist Webb Fontaine, the NCS decided to monopolize the server provider due to precautionary gains.
He alleged further that Customs and the terminal operators are working hand-in- hand to rip importers of their money through the consistent server failure leading to payment of demurrage by importers.
According to him, “server issue has been a problem over the years in the maritime sector and nobody has addressed it. They addressed the matter in what you called a very low key way, because if you want to address a matter and you fail to address it properly, that matter will never be addressed.
“The NCS is yet to rise up to this challenges that is being created by Webb Fontaine who has been contracted by the Nigeria Customs Service. We have a made proposal to Customs to allow us bring in somebody from US to address the server issue, but to no avail.
“And every time they keep telling us server is down, so what happened to the demurrages that we the users are paying? Nobody talks about that.
“Whenever this issue of server failure happened to shipping companies, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council will compel them to pay or swallow whatever the demurrage maybe and they always concur.
“But whenever it happens between Customs, they don't care and Nigerian citizenry are feeling so bad that nothing has been done to get to the logical conclusion of this matter.
“There is need for Government to take a drastic steps and expedite actions in addressing the server failure issues holistically without fear and favour for anyone.
“Every day, there is issue of breach of contract, breach of agreement and breach of shipping procedure in the maritime industry. But in other place, it is not like that and when it happens, they labour will go on strike but when it happens in the maritime sector, the labour will remain mute.
“The group has decided to wage war with the Web Fontaine on the issue of server failure. Server may fail once or thrice in a year but not on daily basis or weekly basis.
“We disagree with Customs for having only one man to manage the system. They should have twin managers to manage the system. The Web Fontaine has collided with Shipping companies and others to get demurrages.
“I tell you, importers lose over N50 billion on a weekly basis nationwide. And we have decided to drag the NCS, Webb Fontaine to court over this issue and we are demanding N100 billion compensation for importers for some of our losses so far”, he stated.