Several operators in the freight and forwarding sub-sector of the maritime sector in Nigeria today are frantically seeking for alternative employment as it becomes difficult for them to operate, investigations by The Point have revealed. Top sources in the maritime sector have disclosed that a large number of the importers have quit and many more may also be forced to quit before the end of the third quarter, particularly as a result of the rising dollar against the Naira and stricter regulations introduced by the Federal Government.
The Managing Director, Robel Automobile Limited, Mr. Ropo Akinboderin, told The Point that the advent of the hike in the tariff imposed on imported vehicles, from 20 per cent to 35 per cent in December 2015, had practically crippled their operations as their businesses suffered a major setback. He added that about 40 per cent of freight forwarders were out of business due to the fact that they could not pay office rent, among other pressing needs.
“The development has scared most of our clients from the port as our clients now import cars from neighbouring countries like Republic of Benin, Togo, Ghana and Mali. High cost of clearing goods in our port is a blessing to other neighbouring countries,” he noted.
Another operator, Mr. Adewale Ogunshinde, maintained that 2015 witnessed a massive drop in the volume of vehicles imported into the country through the seaports and that 2016 might be worse. He lamented that the hike in tariff, inconsistency in government policies and the drop in the value of the naira contributed to the drop. Like his colleagues, Ogunshinde added that the influx of Nigeria-bound vehicles in neighbouring ports had become an alarming issue to stakeholders in the maritime sector.
“Government should see what could be done for the purpose of gaining back our cargoes from neighbouring countries. To an extent, the importation of cars into the country contributes its quota to the reduction of unemployment in the country,” he said. The Chairman, Tin Can Island chapter of the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, Comrade Jude Ige, urged the Federal Government to create an enabling environment for importers, shipping line agencies, freight agents and the concessionaires for them to remain in business. He recalled that, before the introduction of 35 per cent flat rate on all vehicles, tariff rate for all cars was 20 per cent, buses, 10 per cent; trucks and caterpillars, five percent.
“Before the introduction of the 35 per cent flat rate, we were managing to keep our businesses going. But since the hike, many have been forced to withdraw from importation, while other import their vehicles through neighbouring countries. Those vehicles will finally end up here in Nigeria through our border, making the FG to lose money that is supposed to be paid into its treasury,”Ige said.
WE’LL PROTECT ALL STAKEHOLDERS – NSC Meanwhile, the Nigerian Shippers Council has assured all stakeholders in the sector that it is ready to protect them against any arbitrary charges. The Chief Executive officer , NSC, Alhaji Hassan Bello, said the council had been battling with the cost of doing business for a long time, adding that it won’t be tired of protecting stakeholders. He said, “We acknowledge that the ports have been revolutionized but what is worrisome is the arbitrariness, the unilateral action on any tariff without any justification and without the impact on the users of the services or the regulator.
“Henceforth, nobody can raise the cost of anything without the consent of the NSC. I think this is the beginning of our regulatory power. There have been attempts to further raise charges, not only by the terminal operators, but also by some government agencies. Everyone knows now that you cannot increase cost without our consent.”
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