By Adaku Walter
The strike embarked upon by freight forwarders at Tin Can Island Port and PTML Terminal has entered the third day, even as some of the agents are calling on Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) to join the strike action in order to make it a total shutdown of port activities.
The protest, which began at PTML terminal on Friday continued on Monday and spread to Apapa premier port and the Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT) on Tuesday.
On Monday, activities at the Lagos Ports were shutdown by a coalition of freight forwarding associations operating at the port.
They were expressing their grievances against the newly introduced Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) Valuation, introduced by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in January 2022.
The freight forwarders complained about the flaws in the new customs valuation system, saying there was no consideration for rebate and depreciation value in the valuation being issued on imported cars adding that payable duties on imported cars have skyrocketed by more than 300per cent.
Speaking at the venue of the protest, the Taskforce Chairman of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) at Tin Can Port, Rilwan Amuni, said the VIN Valuation policy has been hindering trade facilitation at the port.
He said the freight forwarders were asking the Nigeria Customs Service customs to go back to status quo, give the stakeholders time, so that they can perfect their system.
“We embraced the policy, but the implementation is too bad, for instance, a 2007 model of Mazda for which we pay N250, 000 as value before now has increased by more than double. When you input that amount now, it brings payment value to N2 million, how much is the vehicle?
“The policy is affecting the agents and the Nigerian economy. This protest is being upheld by coalition of all freight forwarding associations at the ports. The customs has refused to listen to our leaders. So the youths have no choice than to protest. We are hoping the policy will be suspended. Anytime that is done, we will go back to work.
“We are not worried about the demur-rage and storage for now, let’s resolve the VIN Valuation policy first, before we face the shipping companies and terminal operators,” Amuni stated.
Throughout the peaceful protest on Monday and Tuesday, The Trumpet observed the heavy presence of security operatives, including those of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Police and Department of State Services (DSS), among others.
Also speaking, Rotimi Azeez, a freight forwarder, urged the Federal Government to emulate the Cotonou Port, where value of imported vehicles was recently reduced.
While lamenting the VIN Valuation, he said: “A car for which we pay N250, 000 as value in 2010, when you input same car today, it gives you N1 million and these are fairly used vehicles. “We are not saying VIN Valuation is bad, but let government input the right amount.
“Cotonou Port has reduced value of imported cars, are they better than Nigeria? People are diverting imports to Cotonou Port, but we are not doing that, government should appreciate us.”
Meanwhile, the agents have appealed to the Maritime Labour Union to join in the strike to make it total.
A youth representative of freight practitioners at Tin Can Island Port, Remilekun Saliu Sikiru, on one of the association platforms, pleaded with association leaders to meet with leadership of MWUN for them to join the strike action.
He said: “To ensure that we have a strong and concrete protest that will shut the entire port 100 per cent, the heads and executive of all the association under the freight forwarding and customs brokers should have a meeting, but they should carry the labour force along to shut down the ports.
“It will be effective and I assure you that the Federal Government will accede to our demands.”