All is not well with cargo business at the international axis of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos following an upward review of 100% tariff on handling charges and other levies by the Skypower.Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) and the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO).
The upward review by the two main Handling companies has forced the licensed customs agents at the Lagos airport to embark on strike, a situation which has made cargo business chaotic at the warehouses off the handling companies.
Despite the fact that the strike has entered the sixth day today, the licensed agents under their umbrella body, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANCLA), has vowed to continue with the strike until the ground handlers agree to review what they called obnoxious and insensitive increment.
As at Friday according to information gathered, the strike had led to over N2billion losses as a result of the withdrawal of services by the licensed agents.
The bone of contention according to the Chairman of ANCLA, Comrade Davies Ben Chukwunenye during a chat with journalists at the Lagos airport, is that the handling companies had in February in a circular sent to its members notified them of the upward review of handling charges.
The new cargo tariffs which became effective April 1st, 2023, saw the old tariff of N63.30 per kilogramme on general cargo/bank consignment increased to N130.6 while the hitherto N13 per kilogram me as demurrage charge (storage) suddenly increased to N26.
In the circular to the licensed agents, the handling companies increased the N76 old cargo tariffs rate per kilogram on courier from N76 to N152, just as tariff per kilogramme on live animals/perishable and dangerous goods/printing materials/diplomatic was raised from N82 to N189.
Also affected in the upward review is the normal minimum charge that used to attract N2,600 which has now skyrocketed to N5,200 while the late registration levy of N9,100 has now been changed to N10,000.
The hitherto fee of N4,420 for re-registration has been increased to N15,000 in the upward review.
The licensed agents who spoke through their Vice Chairman, described the upward review as obnoxious and highly insensitive in view of the present ongoing harsh economic situation that is forcing every Nigerian to struggle for survival.
ANCLA lamented how the several efforts made to make the handling companies reconsider the review in view of the obvious negative effects when it was less than three years that there was an increment failed to assuage their minds.
According to ANCLA: “The Exco’s intervention on this fell on deaf ears as they reluctantly came down to a 100 per cent increment which we all know that in all trade dispute all over the world, there is nowhere 100 percent increment has been accepted and implemented.
“Their reason being that there is galloping inflation in Nigeria but even at that, we all know that inflation in Nigeria has not gone beyond 23 percent, so where is the justification for this
The licensed agents while calling on the federal government to intervene since the handling companies and the aviation authorities refused to respond to their position on this, vowed to continue to resist the review in order to save Nigerians from more hardship.
However, a letter from the two handling companies sent to the agents dated 27th April 2023 and cited by Safealtitude.com, declared that the final rates adjustment was effected in line with Aviation standard as all relevant stakeholders recognised by law including government agencies and the regulator were duly consulted.
The letter signed by Boma Ukwunna and Saheed Lasisi both of SAHCO and NAHCO respectively on behalf of their managements, partly reads “We have also complied with the relevant provisions of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)’s four main principles on increase in charges for Airport and Air Navigation Service providers as contained in ICAO Doc 9082, which are: Cost recovery,
Transparency, Consultation with users and Non-Discrimination.
“It is on record that the Ground Handlers have held several meetings with all critical stakeholders and various associations of Freight Forwarders and Brokers in the industry. During the engagements and numerous conversations held with the stakeholders, it was collectively agreed that there is need to ensure compensation for services rendered as a way of cost recovery for operations and such must enhance safety, efficiency, and security of our collective operations and the airport environment.
” Consequently, it was suggested that the Ground Handlers should amongst other things come up with competitive rates that to a large extent match up with the integral cost of operations and that are commensurate with what obtains in other West African countries. This was intensively considered by all parties”
The handling companies insisted that there were meetings held between them and the agents
on a shift in the commencement dates of implementing the said agreement which they acceded despite the huge cost involved in having to adjust and readjust operating systems which occurred over three or four times.
“We consciously aligned in the spirit of progressive partnership, engagements, consultations, and collaborations. On the 17th of April 2023 we had a meeting with all the relevant stakeholders, consequent upon which an agreement was jointly executed on the 19th of April 2023 where it was collectively agreed that the ultimate effective date for the implementation of the 100% increase is Monday 24th of April 2023.
“We were therefore shocked and taken aback that having achieved the above millage based on thorough justifications regarding the current economic realities, your members still went ahead, staging a protest for a matter that has already been concluded and resolved. ”
While the SAHCO and NAHCO said they followed the due diligence and the laid down procedures in arriving at the increment, ANCLA has vowed to continue with the strike until the increment is reviewed.