By Dave Oso
The President of Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics on Nigeria, APFFLON, Otunba Frank Ogunojemite, has lambasted Nigerian Aviation Handling Company, NAHCO, Plc and Skyway Aviation Handling Company, SAHCO, for demanding for storage charges during the Federal Government-ordered lockdown period.
Business activities at the cargo section of the Lagos airport were grounded, Wednesday, as freight agents protested the ground handling companies over storage charges demanded by the companies for the period.
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After observing the one-month lockdown to curb the COVID-19 pandemic in Lagos, freight forwarders resumed at the airports on Monday May 4, only to find out that NAHCO and SAHCO had slammed demurrage charges on goods uncleared as well as consignments which arrived during the lockdown.
While the ground handling companies reduced the cost to 50 percent of their previous storage charges for the lockdown period, the protesting freight agents demanded 100 percent waivers for the period, as was obtained at the seaports.
Recall that some freight forwarders raised concerns that despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive that airport operations be shut down completely to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country, normal operations at the cargo section of Lagos airport continued, indicating that colossal sums would be demanded as demurrage after the lockdown.
Speaking to journalists in Lagos on this issue, APFFLON boss, Ogunojemite said the importers and freight agents have to obey the President’s directive to stay at home, therefore ground handling companies should waive storage charges for the period.
He said: “Is it the fault of importers and freight agents that there was a lockdown? How can these companies charge us for the lockdown period? We expect 100 percent storage-free period and nothing less. As a result of this crisis no business activity has taken place at SAHCO or NAHCO.
“I see this as an act of irresponsibility and wickedness on the part of ground handling companies, because they could work out a rebate with Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN.
“They will have proof of consignments that they afforded free rent and they can get a similar compensation from FAAN. Since President Buhari’s directive suspending airport operations, there was no other circular or statement directing airports to reopen. So, how would freight forwarders have cleared these cargoes?”
In a bid to get reactions from the ground handling companies, reaching the Public Relations Officer of SAHCO, Mrs. Vanessa Uansohia, she declined to speak on the issue.
Meanwhile, the NAHCO Public Relations Officer, Mr. Sam Akinrinmade, posited that the freight forwarders’ demand for a total waiver on the storage charges was inconsiderate.
He, however, expressed confidence that the ongoing negotiation activities would be able to resolve the matter and a press release would be issued if deemed necessary.