Port users vow to resist planned increase in wharf landing fees
By ADAKU WALTER
Clearing agents and freight forwarders have flayed plans by the Lagos State Wharf Landing Fee Collecting Authority to increase fees on imported goods through the seaports in the state, insisting they will resist the move.
It would be recalled that the agency had last week, disclosed that it had approached the state House of Assembly to review the 13-year-old law, which empowered the state to collect N300 on vehicles, N500 on buses and N1,000 on trucks coming into the country through the Lagos ports.
But reacting to the development, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN), Taiwo Fatomilola, accused the state government of crippling businesses at the ports through the imposition of multiple taxes, levies and fees.
Fatomilola challenged the state government to publish details of the money it has been receiving in the last 13 years, which it claimed had been domiciled with the local government areas and local council development areas (LCDAs) in the state.
“They are not sharing any money with the councils. They should provide details of the money being given. The roads under the local governments are in terrible conditions and have not been repaired, so if their claim of giving the landing fees generated from the wharf to the councils in the past 13 years is true, why are the roads not in good shape?
“We will resist and fight the state government with all our strength. Importers do not give freight forwarders money for wharf landing fees. Rather, the freight forwarders that pay from their pockets. Of the whole states in the country, only Lagos State has been collecting the fee. Why do they want to increase it now that the 2023 general election is close? He asked.
Also, Deputy President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr Segun Musa, who said the wharf landing fees was the most unfortunate thing that has ever happened to the maritime industry, accused leaders in the freight forwarding and customs brokers for being responsible for the development.
“Unfortunately, the silence of the leaders in the freight forwarding and customs brokerage in the face of oppression is a direct indication that they are only interested in themselves without considering the impacts of the hardships on innocent and upcoming practitioners and the industry at large.
The maritime sector is dominated by self-interest leaders that are careless about the future of our industry, but only express concerns when it affects their interest,” he said.
Also speaking, the Chairman of the International Freight Forwarders Association (IFFA), Port and Terminal Multi-Services Limited (PTML) Chapter, Sunny Nnebe, queried what the money the state government has been collecting over the years was used for.
He described the wharf landing fee as illegality and wickedness on importers making use of the Lagos ports because stating that such fees are not collected in other ports.
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Nnebe queried the rationale behind the Lagos State Government’s review and the increment of the fees based on the rising exchange rate, asking: “Does the state government use the money to repair port roads? Do they use dollars to do that? Why is the Chairman talking about the exchange rate and if there are no ports in Lagos can they come up with this wicked demand?
“Before former Governor Babatunde Fashola implemented the forcible collection, had the local government not been funded? A demand for an increase in this regard amounts to wickedness and mockery of other states whose residents do the importation, but don’t have ports in their states,” he said.
On his part, a Youth Leader of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) at Tin Can Island Port, Remilekun Sikiru, said an increase in the fee at this time the economy is not stable, would not be tolerated by the agents.
He debunked insinuations by the Wharf Landing Fee Collecting Authority Chairman that some clearing agents collect as high as N50, 000 from their importers under the guise of paying the fee maintaining that the agency stationing its officials on port access roads to chase after cleared vehicles to collect the fee is tantamount to robbery and touting.
“Their activities are causing a lot of traffic on port access roads, especially at Liverpool under a bridge and along Trinity bus stop, they have gone as far as recruiting area boys with a lot of weapons damaging vehicles as a result of the collection of the fee.
“What the chairman of the agency, Adegboyega Salvador, said about agents collecting as much as N50, 000 from importers for the agency fee is laughable. How can importers, who are hardly able to pay total charges to the agents now give such?
“As clearing agents, we pay the fee from our pockets and the Chairman has failed to let members of the public know that his men attached with policemen and soldiers, especially under the Liverpool Bridge seize vehicles from us to their premises anytime our members beg them that they have no money. They even towed our vehicles with a towing vehicle, which will be added to your charges as a penalty, which is nothing less than 100, 000 for settlement.
He, however, suggested that the Wharf Landing Authority could digitise collection of the fees and remove touts from the port access roads, adding that doing so would be a welcome development.
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