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Terminal operators groan under scarcity of dollars

–as NPA insist on dollar-denominated payment

—-concessionaires may push for increase in tariff
Eyewitness reporter
Terminal operators in the nation’s seaports are groaning under the acute shortage of dollars which adversely affecting their services.
The shortage was the direct consequence of the policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria which recently stopped forex sale to the Bureau de Change(BDC).
Apart from leading to the scarcity of dollars, the policy has also sent Naira into a free- fall in the foreign exchange market, as the local currency has crashed to about N522 to a dollar.
This development has therefore set the terminal operators on a collision course with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) over the payment of royalties.
Under the concession agreement, the terminal operators are expected to pay some royalties such as throughput charges, ship dues, and others to the NPA in dollars.
However,  a source close to the terminal operators told our reporter that the concessionaires are finding it difficult to access dollars because of its scarcity.
The source further disclosed that all entreaties to the NPA to receive the payment of these royalties in the Naira equivalent were futile as the agency insisted on payment in hard currency.
Princess Vicky Hastrup, Chairperson, Seaports terminal operators Association of Nigeria(STOAN)
It was further gathered that this hardline posture by the NPA, despite the challenges in accessing dollars by the terminal operators, may pitch the two parties against each other.
“The dollar scarcity is adversely affecting our services and profit margin.
“Apart from the fact that it is scarce, we get it at greater cost due to the continued fall in the value of the Naira.
“It is difficult to get it at the official rate while the rate at the black market is quite high”, a source close to one of the terminal operators lamented.
“Quite ironically, we are still charging old rates for our services as the regulatory agencies have refused us to make adjustments in our tariffs to reflect the current market realities” the source further said.
The source declared that the operators may have to push for an upward review of their charges if they hope to stay in business.
“The only way we can remain in business is to jerk up our tariffs or in the alternative, NPA should accept payment of its royalties in naira equivalent until the crisis in the forex issue is sorted out by government”  the source noted.
However, it appears that the NPA may not accede to such a request.
Even though the General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications of the NPA, Mr. Olaseni Alakija, was not available for a comment as he was said to be away on an official assignment when our reporter went to his office,  but a source in the agency ruled out the possibility of such concession.
“At what rate in naira equivalent would they( terminal operators) want to pay?
“Is it in the official exchange rate or black market rate?
“If they want to pay the Naira equivalent in the official rates, who pays the shortfall?
“And you know the disparity will affect the revenue of the NPA as well as the remittances to the Federal Government.
“These are the knotty issues that may arise which may not allow the agency to accept payment in Naira.
“Even, apart from that, the dollar-denominated payment is in the concession agreement, so both parties should fully comply”  the NPA source, who begged to remain anonymous, observed.
In the same breath, the Nigerian Shippers’Council, which is the economic regulator, is unlikely to accede to the request for a hike in terminal charges.
It would be recalled that the Council has always maintained that the operators could not impose arbitrary charges on the users of their services, a matter the agency has constantly been at loggerhead with the operators.
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Headlines

IMO tasks Mobereola to sustain NIMASA’s leadership role in regional maritime industry

—– hails his appointment as DG
The Eyewitness Reporter
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has lauded the leadership role of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in the maritime industry within the West African sub-region which it said has stabilized maritime administration in the region.
In his congratulatory letter to Dr. Dayo Mobereola, the new NIMASA DG, the Secretary General of IMO Arsenio Dominguez, observed with satisfaction the collaborative efforts of NIMASA that have brought relative peace to the troubled Gulf of Guinea (GoG).
He therefore charged Mobereola to sustain the tempo of activities that will keep the momentum going in the areas of safety, security and building of strong maritime institutions.
In a conveyance letter personally signed by him, the IMO Secretary-General recognized the strides of the Agency in building a robust maritime sector in Nigeria, adding that the IMO commends the significant effort, initiatives, and investment that Nigeria has made in strengthening its maritime institutions.

In the words of Dominguez, “The focus on strengthening maritime law enforcement and security architecture has been welcomed by seafarers and flag States.

“The Deep Blue project and the C4i Centre as well as maritime piracy laws under the SPOMO Act are just some of the many investments that have set a new gold standard in the region in maritime security capacity building”.

“IMO has long supported the regional role of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct and its Member States in strengthening maritime security and law enforcement.

” In this respect, we have been greatly encouraged with the continuation of this regional ownership with the formation and work of the Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaboration Forum and Shared Awareness and De-confliction (GoG-MCF/SHADE) in 2021”.

He commended the Agency’s partnership with the various regional bodies and expressed the readiness of the IMO to work with Nigeria and other member states on many maritime issues with the aim of jointly tackling these issues.

“NIMASA’s partnership with the Interregional Coordination Centre (ICC) and the collaboration with the shipping industry, navies and the Yaoundé architecture has been instrumental in suppressing the threat of piracy to merchant vessels and seafarers in line with UN Security Council resolution 2634 (2022) on piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea and IMO Assembly resolution A.1159 (32)”.

” I look forward to working with you and your colleagues on many of the maritime issues that we are jointly tackling and hope to welcome you in person at the IMO, he said.

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Headlines

Eastern shippers, freight forwarders on collision course with Shippers’ Council over increase in haulage rate

Akutah Pius Ukeyima, ES, NSC
The Eyewitness Reporter
Importers, Exporters and freight forwarders playing their trade in the South East region of the country have rejected the recent 200 percent hike in haulage rate by the Nigerian Shippers’Council.
They described the increase as “outrageous, arbitrary, and unacceptable.”
In a press conference called by the aggrieved shippers in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, they claimed that if the hike was not reversed, it would bring them on a collision course with the Shippers’ Council.
Addressing journalists on behalf of the aggrieved group, Joshua Ahuama, Zonal Coordinator of the Association of Nigerian Customs Licenced Agents (ANLCA), claimed that the rate will not only lead to spiral inflation but also in contravention of the provisions of the NSC Act.
He disclosed that the group shall give the Shippers’Council a seven-day ultimatum to reverse to status quo or face withdrawal of their services at the Eastern ports.
He accused the council of not consulting concerned stakeholders before arriving at the decision, saying consultations are an integral part of the NSC Act.
 “Recently, the NSC approved a 200 percent increment in haulage rate for transport owners and drivers operating under the Maritime Union of Nigeria.
“To this end, importers and freight forwarders associations in the eastern zone have unanimously disputed the new rate because it is outrageous, arbitrary, and unacceptable to all stakeholders in the zone.
“We have, however, resolved to adopt all peaceful efforts. We started this move on March 14 by calling on the NSC to ensure proper stakeholder engagement and renegotiation.

” These measures are also expected to help all parties to reach a benchmark that would be in the interest of all stakeholders in the maritime value chain,” Ahuama noted.

 “We also urge the NSC to return to the status quo by suspending the implementation of the disputed rate, pending proper renegotiation covering the interest of all stakeholders.

“We are not on a selfish course. Our demands are in the interest of Nigerians because any slight increase in the haulage rate will reflect on the prices of goods in the open market.

“A businessman incorporates total logistic costs into the prices of goods.”

However, the group said they might be constrained to take drastic measures, including suspending all declarations of goods and payments of customs duties, which could negatively affect national revenue and economic output.

Some members of the import and export associations present at the meeting included the Nigeria Shippers Association, the Aba International Traders Association, the Ultimate Importers Association, the POP Importers Association, the Nnewi Importers Association, and the Onitsha Importers Association.

However, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has said that the new approved rate took into consideration the cost, moderation and other cargo transport issues.
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Customs

Performance of Apapa Customs scanning officers excites Comptroller Jaiyeoba

The Eyewitness Reporter
The Area Controller of Apapa command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Comptroller Babajide Jaiyeoba has lauded the uncompromising attitude of the officers of the Non-Intrusive Inspection Technology Unit (NIITU) which he said has been invaluable to the overall success of the command.
Comptroller Jaiyeoba, who was on an unscheduled visit to the scanner site, reminded the officers of the importance of teamwork as a strong basis to sustain the gains of compliance and revenue collection recently recorded by the command.
He thanked Deputy Comptroller Salamatu Atuluku, the Officer in charge of the scanning site and encouraged the unit not to be deterred by complaints coming from persons who were made to pay accurate duties to the government after issuance of demand notices
According to him, no business person who is made to part with money will be happy with officers who refused to compromise the ethics of their job
” The main reason for me coming here is to appreciate you. I may not see you but I have seen your work and I won’t keep quiet about what I have seen about your work.
“You are doing very well. I just want to encourage you to work as a team. If you don’t work as a team, you give room for outsiders to come in and when they come in, they divide you and when they divide you,  achieving success will be very difficult
” Do your work without blemish. Once you keep your arm straight, you can stand before anybody. Your work as a customs officer is to ensure that you do the correct thing
” For those of you doing an intervention in the form of Demand Notice(DN), there is no body who part with money that will be happy with you.
“They will want to play intelligent by hiding somewhere. When you fetch them from their hiding place, they become your enemy. Whatever they write about anybody here will still come down to me and if anybody works well, the onus on me is to defend such a person.
“Just have it at the back of your mind that you owe yourself the duty of doing your work diligently whether anyone comes around as a friend or enemy.
“It is not enough for you to rest. The reward for hard work is more work. These demands require sacrifice so that you can maintain the status” he said.
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