By Lawani Mukairu
LAGOS—Perishable cargo and vegetable exporters have called on the Federal Government to investigate the recent closure of the Lagos export unit of the Skyway Aviation Handling Company, SAHCOL, and Nigerian Aviation Handling Company, NAHCO, last Monday by the Federal Units Operations of the Nigeria Customs Services.
They expressed worry that activities of overzealous government officials who shut down the export sheds at the Lagos airport, without recourse to the inherent losses, portends grave danger for the economy’s agro-allied produce, if not curtailed. The exporters are concerned that such uncharitable actions send wrong signals to the comity of international agro-allied supply chain.
The exporters while stressing their frustrations, hinted that they are still counting losses from the closure of the export warehouses over allegedly housing stolen and prohibited items meant for exportation.
Speaking to journalists in Lagos, Captain John Okakpu of ABX World, said that the agro-allied exporters numbering over one hundred lost over N100 million worth of goods within 48-hours the export warehouses were shut, and called on the Federal Government through the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, to urgently commence full-scale investigations into the immediate and remote causes of the warehouses’ closure to avoid future occurrence.
Supporting Captain Okakpu’s claims, the President, Nigeria Vegetable Exporters Association, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Temitope, said that her company alone lost over N1 million worth of cargo within 24-hours of the export shed closure.
She lamented the widespread impact on the Association’s members numbering over 20. She said, “It was a devastating day for us. We work at night so that as early as 6:00am our partner airline Arik Air would ship the vegetables. So, when the news got to us that customs have shut down both NAHCO and SAHCOL export shed my blood pressure shoot up.”
He said that with Government’s focus on agriculture as one of the panaceas to the rising inflation, restrictions in capital flows and depleting forex reserves, agro-allied exporters deserve protection as partners. He added that although, the Nigeria Customs Service officials have re-opened the warehouses, however such incident tantamount to economic loss, as already international off-takers are developing cold-feet with regards to agricultural produce from Nigeria.
Captain Okakpu’s also said that any action contradicting Federal Government’s agricultural road map which was launched by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo recently should not be treated with levity.
“Our staff at the effort made frantic effort to reach relevant authorities. For instance, the Nigerian Export Promotion Council was outraged because they understand the bad image the incidence will create at the international market.”