BY YUSUF BABALOLA, Lagos
Clearing agents in the nation’s ports have risen against the introduction of Practitioner Operating Fee (POF) by the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN).
The agents say the new fees would increase the cost of clearing cargoes at the nation’s seaports.
The CRFFN had on March 1st 2021, imposed on clearing agents N3.5 on a tonne of cargo imported into the country, N1.5 per kilo for air cargo, N1, 000 on each imported 20-feet container and N2, 000 per 40-feet container as POF.
However, freight forwarders said the collection would defeat the federal government’s move to reduce the cost of doing business at the ports.
Reacting to this development, the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), said, the POF would compound the challenges clearing agents are facing.
The president of NCMDLCA, Lucky Amiwero said, introducing additional charges at this moment when the cost of doing business in Nigerian ports is regarded as one of the highest in the world is uncalled for, as it would shoot up the cost of shipping.
Amiwero enjoined the CRFFN to immediately suspend the collection of POF and create a business-friendly environment for the clearing agents to operate.
Also speaking, the national president, Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics in Nigeria (APFFLON), Otunba Frank Ogunojemite said the council should think about how to relieve clearing agents and importers during the COVID-19 pandemic rather than adding more burden.
Ogunojemite, however, called on the registrar to suspend the POF collection until the economy recovers from the global pandemic and a new Council governing board inaugurated.
“The POF must not be levied on importers or clearing agents now because of the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected the economy and I expect the council to give us relief and not additional burden,” he stressed.
National coordinator, Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders Importers and Exporters Coalitions (SNFFIEC), Osita Chukwu, noted that, collecting the POF at a time the nation is still battling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will compound negative impact on the port operators.
He said that CRFFN mandated the terminal operators and shipping companies to reject any freight forwarders or customs agents that bring any cargo delivery paper without showing proof of the POF payment.
He said if the government failed to address the issue, it would leave them with no choice but to seek redress at the court of law. He alleged that the government established CRFFN to rip off freight forwarders and the public.