NPA reads riot act to terminal operators for flouting COVID-19 waiver directive
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has written a warning letter to terminal operators in Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports following allegations by Customs Licensed Agents of their failure to comply with the directive on granting rent free days during the lockdown in Lagos to contain with the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Nigeria.
The letter titled: ‘Re- Failure to Comply with the Federal Government’s Directive on Issuance of Relief Measures to Port Users in Respect of the COVID-19 Pandemic’, which was signed by Ugo Madubuike, general manager, Monitoring and Regulatory Services, for the Managing Director, was obtained by BusinessDay on Friday.
Madubuike gave terminal operators 48 hours to explain reasons for non-compliance of the Federal Government directive, or show evidence to the contrary.
While stating that the Authority views seriously the flouting of any Federal Government directive, and would not hesitate to apply appropriate sanctions where this was confirmed to be true, Madubuike said that the NPA expects to receive the operators’ responses before close of work on Tuesday, 5th May, 2020.
Madubuike further said that the NPA have received various complaints from freight-forwarding groups alleging the flouting of these directives by terminal operators and even attaching documentation as proof.
“You will recall that following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nigerian Ports Authority issued directives vide letters HQ/GM/MRS/Op/L.1/vol.11/339, HQ/GM/MRS/OP/L.1/vol.11/372 and HQ/GM/MRS/OP/L.1/vol.11/379 dated 2nd, 8th and 15th April, 2020 respectively for the suspension of rental charges on consignments from 23rd March, 2020 for an initial 21 days and from 13th April, 2020 for an additional 14 days,” Madubuike stated in the letter.
According to Madubuike, this was done in recognition of the challenges being experienced by consignees in clearing their goods due to the various levels of movement restrictions imposed by the Federal and State Governments.
“You will also recall that to relieve you of the associated loss of revenue from the implementation of these directives, the Authority undertook to refund you the waivers granted to consignees during this period, through the issuance of credit notes for the amount waived, in line with the approved and published rates,” Madubuike added in the letter.
Recall that the NPA had directed all terminal operators to suspend all applicable terminal storage fees on consignments for an initial period of 21 days effective March 23, 2020.
It further directed all terminal operators to extend the suspension of all applicable terminal storage fees on consignments for another 14 days effective April 13, 2020, which expired on April 27, 2020.
Based on this, freight forwarders at Nigerian ports on Thursday 30th April 2020, threatened to embark on strike over the refusal of terminal operators and shipping companies to waive demurrage and storage charges after the expiration of waiver on 27th of April 20202.
Meanwhile, a source close to one of the terminals, who claimed anonymity explained that several of the operators have been complying with the waiver directive, adding that the allegation of non-compliance, if found to be true, must have happened at the initial stage of the directive.
The source further stated that the guideline on the repayment of waived sums were not properly explained to operators at the initial stage and that made the implementation to foot drag at that point.