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Customs agents, NAHCO’s face-off deepens

By on May 17, 2015

There seems to be no end in sight to the lingering crisis between the licensed customs agents and the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company over a 30 per cent increase in cargo handling and demurrage charges.

Customs agents under the auspices of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents on Tuesday embarked on an industrial action over the increase, withdrawing their services from the Murtala Muhammed Cargo Terminal in Lagos

NAHCO officials and representatives of ANLCA had on Monday met at the firm’s head office in Lagos on the decision to increase tariff.

Although both sides had reportedly agreed on the need to increase the tariff, there was no consensus on the percentage.

The President of Shippers’ Association of Lagos State, Rev. Jonathan Nicol, had reportedly tried to resolve the dispute.

But when this failed, Nicol called on importers to boycott NAHCO’s services until further notice, describing the increase as illegal as he noted that the Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited had yet to raise its cargo tariff.

He said, “NAHCO has attributed the increase to the devaluation of naira but SAHCOl did not increase theirs. So, shippers are in full support of the custom agents’ demands that the increase be reversed.

“Some of these terminal operators have failed to feel the pain of the Nigerian shippers. Rather, they are filling their pockets. Majority of the shippers can hardly get back their capital investments. While the shippers are crying, these terminal operators are smiling to the banks.”

Customs agents were said to have initially charged N26 per kilo of cargo by NAHCO. The price was increased to N38 and recently raised again to N53, all within three years.

The spokesperson for NAHCO, Mr. Tayo Ajakaye, confirmed the increase in cargo tariff, saying it was in line with the industry standards.

He said that NAHCO had to review the tariff on account of the high cost of operational equipment, which he attributed to the drop in the value of naira.

He said, “We did all we were required to do. We consulted everyone, including relevant agencies and stakeholders that needed to be consulted. But of course you will agree with me that no one wants a price increase. So, it is understandable if a few people are raising dust. We should expect that.”

But Ajakaye told our correspondent in a telephone interview, “To the best of my knowledge, the custom agents are not on strike at NAHCO. We have met with them and reached an agreement over the percentage increase, which is now 20.”

The Publicity Secretary, ANLCA, Mr. Kayode Farinto, said, said no agreement had been reached with NAHCO on the issue.