The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders has urged the Federal Government to make the country’s ports user-friendly to shippers and other maritime operators.
NAGAFF President, Uche Increase, gave the advice in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Saturday against the backdrop of the closure of the country’s land borders two months ago.
Increase said: “Whatever reason that warranted the land border closure is best known to government and we believe it’s for the best interest of the country.
“But on a larger scale, government needs to evaluate the issue of borders being so porous that illicit trade are going on there or the insecurity of bringing arms and ammunition into the country.
“The next stage or level of enquiry should be to look into port operation properly; the reason why people tend to transit their cargoes through the neighbouring countries, let government make enquiry as our ports are not user-friendly.
“The service providers are unfriendly, the concessionaires of port terminals saddle shippers with arbitrary, unapproved charges, highhandedness on demurrage and storage fees and others.”
The freight forwarders urged the Federal Government to set up a committee to look at the issues holistically in order to attract more patronage to the nation’s ports.
They also noted that the border closure might have negative effect on Nigeria’s relationship with the neighbouring countries as the country had signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
“Right now, freight forwarders are somehow confused because they are not operating, and perishable goods are getting spoilt due to border closure,” Increase said.
The NAGAFF boss urged the Federal Government to have a rethink as closing the border without making the nation’s ports user-friendly might lead to more smuggling and other illegal activities.
He said: “We need to also understand that there are people whose means of survival depended largely on the border and might be pushed to device another means of survival, which is usually illegal.
“We are not saying government should compromise on security but trade must be facilitated, the borders must be accessible for things to move on,” he said.