Port users disagree over NSC’s registration fees

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• It is in order…NAGAFF

The dust raised by the registration fees introduced by Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) for freight forwarders and other port users is yet to settle.

Some operators spoke in support of the fees; others rejected the plan.

The Vice Chairman, Dry Cargo Division of the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), Inuwa Abdullahi, said it negated the much talked about ease of doing business.

According to him, the fees make the country’s ports less attractive as it amounts to double taxation.

“Importers are getting more attracted to using ports of neighbouring countries for cargoes that are consumed by Nigerians. This leads to increasing job loss. It is not good for the country and the economy and it will further make our ports less attractive. There are many issues affecting the ports users that require urgent attention than this,” Abdullahi said.

National Council of Managing Director of Licenced Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) President Lucky Amiwero described the fees as alien and unlawful. According to him, there is no place in the Act establishing the NSC where such registration fee is provided. He, challenged the NSC to show the public anywhere in its enabling law where it has powers to call for registration fees.

“The enabling law of Shippers Council, which is an act of National Assembly, under which the council operates gives it powers to protect the interest of shippers and not to add to their problems. It is a simple matter, they should just show us where they derive such powers from their enabling law. The fees is another illegality being foisted on port users and operators,” Amiwero said.

For Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) Chairman, Remi Ogungbemi, the policy is “dead on arrival.” According to him, the NSC should not capitalise on the fact that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), collected N10,000 per truck from AMATO members for stickers to also perpetuate illegality.

“What is the fees meant for? Is it to fix the dilapidated port infrastructure? Is it to build parking space for our trucks or to add value to our operations in any way? We need them to come and explain what we are paying that money for. Presently we are burdened by several unofficial payments in addition to the official ones of renewing our vehicle particulars annually and payment of other fees, so this one by NSC will not stand,” Ogungbemi said.

National Association of Freight Forwarders and Air Consolidators (NAFFAC) President General Adeyinka Bakare, described the fees as an additional cost of doing business which would militate against the presidential directive on the ease of doing business. He said it was only the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) that could make such policy. He explained that the NSC policy is a “dream that will never come true.”

According to him, with the policy, the NSC is doing another agency’s work. “Registration of agents should be done by CRFFN and is the right of CRFFN alone. No agency, no terminal or shipping line has the right to ask agents to come and register with them. The only person saddled with that responsibility is CRFFN because that is what the Act says.Every agency has the Act that established it and what role each should be playing,” Bakare said.

But, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) President, Increase Uche, said the fee is in order.

He said those opposed to it were acting in ignorance as such fees will cover administrative costs for registration and help to profile, identify and cause orderliness in the port environment.

“Most of us belong to other organisations like CRFFN and we pay the stipulated fees. I don’t see anything wrong with this one. I urge people to comply with it,” he said

The Director of Legal Services, NSC, Samuel Vongtau, explained that through the registration process, the council would be able to know the number of service providers operating within the sector, adding that it will also help bring sanity to the port environment.

The registration fee, which is to be paid by clearing agents, shipping companies, indigenous shippers, inland container operators, terminal operators, offdock terminal operators is to help the council weed out touts and quacks from the industry.

A breakdown of the registration fee released by the council showed that shipping line agencies are expected to pay a registration fee of N100,000 yearly; cargo consolidators – N20,000; dry port operators – N50, 000; freight forwarders and clearing agents – N10, 000; haulers – N10,000; Inland Container Depot operators – N50,000; off dock terminal operators – N20,000; Seaport terminal operators – N100, 000; shippers – N1,000;  shippers association – N5,000; Stevedoring companies – N20,000, and warehouse operators – N20,000.

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